By Paul Wright
Welcome to another issue of PLN. You will notice that we are still experimenting with different formats. Our goal is to improve our appearance and at the same time make it more readable, just like the "real" magazines. Our last issue had four columns of text for the most part, while I kind of liked it most people who saw it said it looked too scrunched together. This issue we are trying three columns to see how it looks. We welcome feedback from you, our readers, as to what you like and what you would like to see. That goes both in terms of style and substance. We don't answer to advertisers, big money or corporate donors but just to you, our readers, so let us know what you want and we'll see what we can do.
Please check your mailing label to ensure the information is accurate. If any changes need to be made let us know as soon as possible, send the label back with any changes if you can.
In December prisoners here at WSR in Monroe, WA. began to receive our first computers for in cell use. This is the culmination of almost five years of struggle. Between 1986 and 1989 WSR prisoners were permitted to have computers in their cells. This resulted in prisoners gaining valuable computer skills that enabled them to get real jobs when they got out. To date, no computer owner that has been released has been returned to prison. In 1989 Larry Kincheloe became director of prisons and one of the first things he did was take the computers away. Long time readers of PLN will recall that we reported the ups and downs of this struggle over the years, which included litigation and senate hearings to expose the lies he used to justify his actions.
Ed was the main driving force behind the struggle. If anyone deserves credit for our having computers again it is he, and the outside volunteers and community supporters that joined this struggle--especially Jon Nelson and Jack Roos (who are sponsors of the Lifer's and made repeated pilgrimages to Olympia to meet with DOC officials and keep on them about this). I thought it was quite ironic that Ed would be out of prison before we got the first machines in. In May of 1992, then Director of Prisons, James Spalding, told Ed he would approve the computers again. It took 19 months to go from that to actually having them. I must note that the state built and filled two control units in less time, it's all a matter of priorities.
The computer policy is quite limited compared to what we had before, only 7 applications programs are allowed, no disks are allowed nor modems or fax hookups. Many former prison computer owners have not bought computers because of their dissatisfaction with the policy. While to those in prison systems who do not permit even prisoner owned typewriters this may seem nitpicky, but it's all relative.
This is a pilot project affecting only WSR and is slated to last a year at which time prisoncrats will decide to continue, halt or otherwise modify it. WSR now joins the New Jersey and Wyoming DOC's in permitting in cell computer use. We have to buy our own computers, thus, no cost to the taxpayer is involved. Both as a means of rehabilitation, learning meaningful job skills and a valuable tool for propaganda and litigation this is something that prisoners should struggle for. It's interesting to note that PLN readers in the Argentine prison system have free access to computers (and twice a week conjugal visits) and a wide variety of software.
I've never been much into mechanical things so I'm slowly learning the relevant software. I've taken computer courses while in prison but the software changes quite a bit from version to version. WordPerfect 6 for Windows has all sorts of bells and whistles.
On other fronts, we continue in our effort to expand PLN's circulation. We have passed the 900 mark in US subscribers, with readers in 48 states. We will soon be printing more than the current thousand copies which will leave us with a lot of left overs to distribute. If you have events or such to hand out copies contact us about getting them for little more than the cost of postage. We rely on our readers and word of mouth to let people know we exist and what we have to say. So let friends, family, colleagues and such know about PLN and encourage them to subscribe. Prisoners especially need to let others know about us. Due to the spreadout nature and inaccessibility of the nation's prisons this is the only way we have of letting most people know about us. Blurbs in prison newspapers and other publications are a big help. We can also send a sample copy to anyone you think is likely to subscribe, just give us their name and address. Any donations to help offset the postage costs involved are much appreciated. If your prison allows it, we can send you bulk issues of PLN to distribute to potential readers, contact me for more information.
Feel free to send us articles, comments, suggestions and information. We frequently get bundles of documents from readers who then want us to put it into article format. It's a lot easier on us and quicker in terms of "into print time" if you send us articles already written. In many cases we lack the time to sort through hundreds of pages of documents to get a story out of it. Remember we do not cover criminal law nor cases involving wrongful convictions and such. Our focus is on prison civil rights and issues related to prison struggle. The individual details of how we got here is immaterial to what we do. In the few cases we do publicize the situation of an individual prisoner it usually concerns conditions of confinement and involves political or activist prisoners. We have to have some means of winnowing this down because we get a huge amount of mail from folks outraged over the real or perceived injustice of their own situation. What we try to get across in PLN is that it is the system as a whole that is unjust rather than an isolated instance. We need to get beyond our own individual cases and deal with the systemic root causes. One step is realizing that without social and economic justice we won't have criminal justice.
One other thing is that we frequently get requests to advertise or blurb books, materials or other products. PLN doesn't accept paid advertising. We have two reasons for this, one, no one's offered us any, and two, we want to avoid becoming dependent on any source of income that would influence our political content and line so we don't solicit it. We do review and blurb products as a service to our readers, in fact, I do most of the magazine and similar reviews. For this, send me a sample of whatever you're hocking or write us first to see if it's anything we're interested in blurbing. By seeing what we blurb we can assure our readers of what they should be getting for their money. The other result of this practice is that you never see a bad review or blurb in PLN. If we don't feel it's worth having or it's a ripoff, etc., then we don't waste the print to talk about it. No one likes to be ripped off and we'll do our best to ensure that doesn't happen to our readers. Enjoy this issue of PLN and pass it along to others when you're done with it.
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