by Dan Pens
Greetings to PLN readers from the new co-editor. I have worked with Ed and Paul since nearly the very beginning, helping to type articles, writing, editing, and proof reading (an odious chore). I originally came on board when the mailing list grew to over a hundred readers because of my dBase programming skills. I developed the dBase program used by PLN volunteers to manage the mailing list. Over the years I have invested countless hours to help put this newsletter out each month.
I devote my time and energy to the PLN because I believe it is a valuable tool in the struggle for prisoners' rights and I consider it a good use of my time. PLN provides a much needed service to prisoner litigants, and provides a "voice" for views that get little or no play in the rightwing dominated "for profit" media.
After thirteen years of imprisonment, I recently saw the ISRB (parole board) and got an additional five years tacked onto my minimum. After explaining to my parents what the board did, why, and how, my mom said, "They can't do that .. can they?" And my dad echoed, "Why, son, their actions sound illegal!" All I could do was laugh. After thirteen years, they still don't get it. So I explained it again. "Dad," I said, "They do whatever they want. Period. Anything they do is `legal', and it remains `legal' until and unless a prisoner takes them to court and prevails on it. Prison officials know this. They know that 99% of the time prisoners lack the resources (or heart) necessary to challenge them in court. So they do what they damn well please, regardless of whether a court rnay eventually (usually years later) deem it to be `illegal'."
So, here's to you PLN readers, the 1% who challenge the actions of our captors and make them answerable to the courts. Sometimes it seems like a losing battle. Pro se litigating requires lot of heart. It's frustrating. It seems like the deck is stacked against you (it is). Prisoner litigants face harassment and retaliation from their captors. There are a few "recreational" litigants who file suits just to pass the time of day. There are some "guerrilla" prisoner litigants who file suits as a way to pose a nuisance to their captors. These are the ones who get hyped (ridiculed) in the mainstream media The vast majority of prisoner litigants, though, are attempting to redress legitimate grievances, and we all benefit from their struggle. If it were not for the heroic efforts of prisoner litigants reported in each and every issue of PLN, we would all be imprisoned under much worse conditions.
We have had a lot of problems getting PLN printed and mailed on time. Please bear with us while we work to find solutions. We rely heavily on the efforts of our outside volunteers to do the layout, desktop publishing, printing, and mailing. We have always relied on volunteers as a way to keep our costs down so we can afford to publish. It reaches a point, though, when it's just too much work for volunteers to handle (they have lives, families, jobs and such). Each month since the inception of PLN we have had a "mailing party" in the community where volunteers get together to fold, staple, and affix address labels to each issue. This worked just fine at first. But as we continue to grow we are having to develop new solutions to answer the challenge of getting 1,200 plus issues mailed each month. You probably noticed that your PLN is folded lengthwise now. We have contracted with the printer to do the folding, and that is the way their machines are set up to do it. We are working on a way to get either the printer or a contract "mailing service" to affix the labels. This all costs money, of course, so remember to donate as much as you can in order to help us keep this thing going. If you are imprisoned, please try to hustle up at least a few stamps. If you send us something, that lets us know that you value our publication, and we'll continue to mail you issues for a few more months. If you can pony up a book of stamps, that will get you six months. Two books of stamps (or $10-$12) will get you a whole year.
Hopefully, by the end of the year we will have the kinks worked out, and will be printing and mailing on time again All in all, you have been incredibly patient with us. We have thankfully not been inundated with letters from readers wondering where their issues are.
Readers in Texas prisons have had to endure an even longer delay in receiving their PLN. It seems the TDCJ-ID needs to "quarantine" all incoming publications. A sample of the publication is forwarded to Mail System Coordinators Panel (MSCP) for review. They decide if the publication violates any of the guidelines set out in the TDCJ-ID Correspondence Rules, specifically Rule 188.8.131.52. Who says crime doesn't pay? It sounds like prisons in Texas are a booming business creating valuable jobs. Where else can you get great pay and state benefits for reading magazines? The MSCP folks must have really enjoyed the April issue. Our Texas readers actually got their May issue before the April issue was approved and allowed to be distributed. Texas readers should note that TDCJ-ID Correspondence Rule 184.108.40.206. states in part: "If a publication is rejected, the inmate, the editor and/or publisher will be provided a written notice of the disapproval and a statement of the reason therefore within seventy-two (72) hours of receipt of said publication on Publication Denial Forms."
PLN readers in the Waupun Correction Institution in Wisconsin failed to get some issues at all. It seems that "corrections officials" in the mailroom there discovered they would have more leisure time if they simply tossed the third class mail in the dumpster rather than sort it and deliver it. For more details, read Prisoner Mail Trashed at Waupun in this issue.
Occasionally readers write and ask for copies of specific back issues. Until recently we were unable to fill requests for the December '93 and April '94 issues because we didn't have extra copies. We have had copies made, and these issues are now available. If you need a specific back issue of PLN, send us one dollar (or 4 stamps) to cover the copying and postage, and we'll mail you that issue. Full sets of back issues are available for $35 per year. We are working on getting all of our back issues indexed (by case citation and subject matter) and will hopefully have indexes available by the first part of 1995.
We want to increase our subscriber base. One of the most effective ways to do that is via "word of mouth" from you, our present readers. Help us become more well known. If you send us 10 stamps and a return mailing label, we'll send you 25 copies of PLN to distribute to potential subscribers. Enjoy this issue of PLN. Pass it onto a comrade. Tell your friends and family about us. Encourage your people on the outside to subscribe. Maybe if they read PLN they'll start to get a clue about how the system operates, and you won't have to struggle to explain the reality of imprisonment to them over the phone when they gasp and say, "Why, son, they can't do that... can they?"
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