From the Editor
Welcome to another issue of PLN. Everyone at PLN would like to extend our thanks to the Peradam Foundation for their generous grant to PLN of $3,900 which will enable us to buy computer equipment necessary for the magazine' s production. As everyone knows, computer equipment is expensive and until now we have relied on our volunteers who own their own computers. By being able to purchase a computer this allows us to expand the number of people involved in PLN's production; this spreads the work around and also helps ensure we aren't reliant on just one set of equipment should there be an equipment failure or such. How we came to receive the grant from Peradam is a long story. They contacted us to see how they could help after learning that Resist had turned us down for a grant because of our political content.
At this point PLN is the only national prisoner produced magazine in the US. As the political climate goes further towards the right prison struggle is not a very popular topic, especially for funding purposes. Besides the Peradam Foundation's grant PLN has only received two other grants, despite having applied to a number of foundations in the past. Both grants were from Resist. In 1991 Resist gave us $600 which allowed us to get our non-profit status and bulk mail permit. In 1993 they gave us $800 which allowed us to absorb the costs involved in expanding from a 10 page newsletter to a 16 page magazine. Earlier this year we applied for a $1,000 grant to Resist to fund an outreach campaign where we could mail out around 4-5,000 copies of PLN to potential institutional subscribers.
Resist declined our grant request because of several articles that have appeared in PLN over the years which are sympathetic to or otherwise supportive of the PCP (Communist Party of Peru, AKA the Shining Path). In turning us down they stated: "The Board is generally supportive of your newsletter. After much discussion, however, Board members decided against funding your proposal. The Board was opposed to contributing to a group that continues to be supportive of the Shining Path. Because there is no longer just one article on the Shinning Path, but a series of articles, replies, and so on, Board members could not see that future issues of the newsletter would be any different. At the same time that the Board is not interested in monitoring or in anyway controlling the production of your newsletter, your continued support for the Shining Path makes it impossible for Resist to provide funding for the newsletter."
We wrote to Resist and asked them to reconsider their decision. As of today's date we have not received a reply. In 1992 we requested a grant from Resist, which they declined to provide also based on the PCP articles. They later changed their mind and in 1993 wrote us and requested that we resubmit our grant request, which we did and they granted it. (Anyone desiring copies of the relevant correspondence should send me an SASE.)
Based on Resist's letter I went through all back issues of PLN from January, 1993, to the present (at that time our August issue). In 20 issues PLN had published 6 articles dealing with Peru in general, this included prisoners at Leavanworth organizing in support of PCP prisoners, a prison escape in Peru, lawsuits against the Peruvian government filed by American lawyers on behalf of PCP prisoners, the persecution of Peruvian lawyers and a letter from a reader concerning allegations he had heard that the PCP persecuted gays (they don't). This is hardly the "series of articles" Resist states is the case, especially when you consider that each issue of PLN has between 30 and 40 articles. So 6 articles out of several hundred during the relevant time period is what Resist objects to.
But this raises two important issues. First, is the coverage of struggle by political prisoners around the world. Since we began PLN we have consistently focused on struggle by and around political prisoners, whether in Palestine, Ireland, England, France, Spain, Central America, Mexico, the US and yes, even Peru. PLN's co-founder and former editor Ed Mead was himself a political prisoner. We have covered political prisoner issues because many countries deny having them and it is important that people know the reality. Covering people's struggle for a better world, which invariably results in those militants being killed and imprisoned, is what sets PLN apart from other magazines that focus on prison reform without putting it into the context of the need for radically changing society. We will continue to cover and support the struggles of political prisoners around the world. For what its worth, in nearly five years only Resist has complained about our coverage of this type of struggle.
Secondly, this episode illustrates the importance of PLN remaining financially independent. By not relying on foundations, advertising, etc. for survival we are able to maintain our editorial independence and continue publishing the materials that our readers need to know about and which serves the interest of advancing the progressive prison struggle. This means we remain answerable to you, our readership, rather than a few big money donors whose interests or agendas may be in conflict with that of progressive prison struggle. To remain financially independent we rely on the donations that you, our readers, send us. We are doing our outreach mailings but can still use money to cover the costs of the mailings. If you can send a donation to help us do so, send what you can.
It was due to Resist turning down our grant request that the Peradam Foundation learned of us and was able to so generously donate.
Our subscription drive continues. We were just hit with a postage increase in November and postal rates will be going up again in January, 1995. Over the years we have cut our costs as much as we can. In almost five years we've increased our suggested donation rate only once, from $10 to $12, and in that time we have doubled in size from 10 to 20 pages. The only way we can break even and keep from having to raise our rates is by increasing our circulation. The higher our print run is (i.e. the more subscribers we have) the cheaper it is per copy. We have about 1,200 readers now. Please tell others about PLN and encourage them to subscribe. We can send bundles of PLN for you to pass along to potential subscribers and we can send sample copies on request. The main thing is to get the word out and let folks know about PLN so they can subscribe. We need and appreciate your support on this.
The PLN suit against the Washington parole board [See: July, 1994, PLN] also continues. Judge Bryan of the US District Court in Tacoma denied the state's motion to dismiss the suit on the basis that it should be brought as a habeas corpus action. We will be filing for a Preliminary Injunction before this issue goes to press. We will advise readers of the outcome once the court has ruled on it. The suit has gotten local publicity with an excellent article by Dan Tenenbaum and George Howland appearing in The Stranger, a weekly alternative paper in Seattle.
On a closing note, Erwin Knoll, the editor of The Progressive, died of a heart attack on November 2, 1994. Mr. Knoll was one of PLN's first subscribers way back in 1990. Over the years he was also a strong supporter of the first amendment and press freedom. When prison officials at Clallam Bay punished me for writing a series of articles about guard brutality at the prison Mr. Knoll wrote about it. One of his last editorials covered the PLN suit against the parole board. Mr. Knoll became famous in 1979 when the government tried to stop The Progressive from publishing an article about making hydrogen bombs. The government ultimately lost their suit. With his passing PLN and free speech advocates everywhere have lost a friend. We send our condolences to Mr. Knoll's family and the staff at The Progressive.