By Ed Mead
Welcome to another issue of Prison Legal News . This month I want to bring you up-to-date on how we have been doing with our efforts to increase our subscriber base and the number of paying readers. Since last May, every month we have been sending out sample copies of the newsletter to various groups and individuals. The number of free copies mailed each month range from a couple of hundred to well over a thousand. The results of this effort have been encouraging. We have reduced the percentage of free subscriptions from 38 to 27 percent. Whereas before less than half of our readers paid enough to cover our costs of our sending them the newsletter, today 57% have paid the amount per year it costs us to produce and mail the PLN to them. Some 16% of our subscribers pay something, less than the amount it costs us to produce and mail the newsletter to them. Most of those who pay nothing, or pay an amount less than the cost of production, are prisoners housed in control units or else locked down on death row.
The bottom line continues to be that the paper is paying for itself, as well as for the cost of its continued expansion. Readers should note that not a single penny of the newsletter's money is spent for any purpose other than the direct costs related to the PLN . All of the newsletter's money is kept on the streets, in an account managed by our volunteer business manager. He disburses it to our creditors, such as the post office, printing company, etc. No one connected to PLN is paid any amount at all, as everything connected with the production process (except for printing, postage, and miscellaneous office supplies such as address labels) is done by volunteers who believe in the correctness of what we are trying to accomplish with this paper.
While we have increased our income levels, our subscriber base has not been growing fast enough. We can bring the cost of production down significantly if we can double our number of readers. Although new readers keep signing on, we also lose many old ones. Those we lose are mostly people who have sent us four or five stamps, so the economic loss isn't significant. Still, it does not hurt us to increase our readership. The cost of printing will go down with the more copies we printed. To take advantage of this we will need you to take active responsibility for signing up new subscribers, either family members or fellow prisoners. Let us know if you need bulk copies of the newsletter to distribute to people. We can send you left over copies for a little more than the cost of postage it takes to mail them to you.
Some people look at PLN and see us as being something that would be useful only to jailhouse lawyers or attorneys, and ten only for those interested in prisoner rights litigation. This simply isn't true. Every prisoner and family member must be rights conscious. This does not mean you need to know how to file lawsuits or anything like that. It merely means that by reading PLN you are becoming more aware of your rights and the rights of those you love. How can you vindicate a right you are not aware you have? You can't. But once you know about a specific injustice, it is then easier to find a lawyer or some other prisoner to help you litigate the issue. It isn't necessary that you do the legal work yourself.
If there are weaknesses in the paper, or other changes you feel might make us more useful to you and your loved ones on the outside, communicate these criticisms to us. We will include more news and articles of interest to family members if you think that will help. What we will not do, however, is to alter our political biases. We are class conscious prisoners who, unlike the bourgeois media, make not pretense of being objective or neutral. We are partisans for a specific point of view. We are against slavery and support the extension of democracy to all peoples, including prisoners. We believe that the current approach to crime and punishment issues being implemented by the government is counter-productive and actually contributes to the problems it purports to solve. We believe there can be no meaningful criminal justice system without a political system that provides its citizens with social justice. But notwithstanding all of this, we can nonetheless be an outstanding source of prison news and legal information. To be really good, however, we need you help. Write the kind of things you would like to see included and send it to us. Or, if you don't feel comfortable writing an article, just tell us what you would like to see more of in PLN . We are open to both your suggestions and you criticisms.
This will be my last editorial comments written from Monroe. The state has seen fit to parole me to my federal detainer, after serving a mere 18 years for an assault in which neither of my police officer victims were so much as scratched. I will be somewhere in the federal system by the time this reaches you. Anyone who corresponds with me, or who has me on the mailing list for any publication, should no longer send mail to the Monroe address. Paul will probably have more for you about this in his editorial comments in next month's issue.
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