What you're holding in your hands is referred to as the "Alternative Press." We are called that because we offer an "alternative" view to that provided by the corporate media. In our case we are advocates for the rights and well being of prisoners and seek to add our perspective to the criminal justice policy debate. Ours is a small voice because unlike the corporate media we aren't subsidized by advertising and deep pocket publishers. Because we rely directly on reader support we are able to represent the views and interests of progressive prisoners.
We frequently review and plug other alternative publications because we believe it is important to inform people about their existence and encourage support for the alternative media. None of us can afford to advertise, the only way we can make ourselves known is through word of mouth and supporting each other. We are especially anxious to support other prisoner publications, by this I mean publications by and for prisoner interests, not the ones published by prisons that are censored and all to often are nothing more than the warden's public relations office. Ideally, every state should have a monthly newsletter similar to PLN that can focus specifically on issues and struggle particular to that state.
When PLN started it was mainly focused on Washington state. While we still are to an extent, we have since grown and expanded to have a more national focus with only about 12% of our readership residing in Washington state. For those who ask why have a newsletter or a newspaper the reason is simple: it provides a means by which to disseminate information, coordinate strategy for litigation, political and other forms of struggle and keeps us informed of what is happening. Philosophers have asked if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it still make noise? Our relevant question is if prisoners struggle and no one knows about it does it have an impact? Yes, but not as much than if the world knows about it.
Organizing around a newspaper or newsletter is not a new idea. Lenin's What is To Be Done gives an eloquent and timeless explanation of this concept.
Maintaining a flow of ideas, news and communication in and out of the prisons is a vital issue. That's why we ask that you support the alternative press over the corporate media. In the past I have considered writing a brief "how to" guide for prison newsletters which would essentially give the practical aspects of what we have learned in five years of publishing PLN and contacts we have had with other publishers over the years. Being short on time this has not been a priority. If anyone is interested in this drop me a line and let me know, enough interest and I'll make it a priority.
Raze the Walls: is a resource directory for prisoners listing sources of legal, political, religious and prison information. It lists numerous groups who are active on prison issues, the death penalty, political prisoner issues, etc. It also contains a pen-pal section. Produced by prison struggle supporters it contains information of interest to people on the outside who are interested in supporting prisoners and learning more about prison struggles. Prisoners should send $2.00 in stamps, free folks should donate what they can over $2.00 to help cover production and mailing costs. Write: Raze the Walls, P.O. Box 22774, Seattle, WA 98122-0774.
Jericho Newsletter: is a new publication edited by former prisoner Michael Stephens. The October, 1994, issue contained articles about the death penalty, prison beatings, pen pal ads and more. They are seeking more prisoner input to expand the content and size of their newsletter. To subscribe send a donation to: J.N. P.O. Box 1983, Cincinnati, OH 45201-1983.
The Bridge: is the bi-monthly newsletter of the Prisoners' Self Help Legal Clinic in New Jersey. While it is aimed at New Jersey prisoners and includes developments in state courts (including small claims, appellate, county level, etc.) it contains legal information useful to prisoners everywhere, especially in the third circuit. It also contains legislative and political information affecting prisoners in New Jersey. I find each issue informative and helpful, the important thing is that their emphasis is on educating prisoners so that we can help ourselves through the legal system rather than rely on others. To subscribe send a donation to: Prisoners' Self Help Legal Clinic, 2 Washington Place, Newark, NJ 07102.
Pro Se: is a newsletter published quarterly by Prisoners' Legal Services of New York and is aimed at helping New York state prisoners help themselves by reporting on legal, political and legislative developments affecting them. It reports state and federal rulings affecting New York state prisoners (PLN usually doesn't report many of these state court cases because they tend to be highly fact specific and of limited relevance to the bulk of our readership, in or out of a given state. We do report all the relevant federal cases.). Subscriptions are free to New York state prisoners, others should inquire about subscription prices to: Pro Se, P.O. Box 6766, Ithaca, NY 14851.
The Voice: is the quarterly newsletter of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation (MVFR) which is a group that actively opposes the death penalty and offers a rational and non-inflammatory view of criminal justice issues. In the July, 1994, editorial, I made a comment about reactionary victim's rights advocates who seek to roll back the small gains made by prisoners over the years. MVFR vice chair, and PLN supporter, Theresa Mathis wrote to remind me that not all crime victim or murder victim family members think alike and encouraged me not to perpetuate that lie. She is quite right and I should have known better. My apologies to MVFR and crime victims who do not support or advocate criminal justice policies based on hate, revenge and retribution. In addition to its newsletter MVFR provides speakers and other information to those interested. When the corporate media trots out the reactionary victims of crime bear in mind that there are other voices out there. Subscriptions are available for a donation, write: MVFR, P.O. Box 208, Atlantic, VA 23303-0208.
Florida Prison Legal Perspectives: is an excellent brand new newsletter aimed at Florida prisoners, their families, supporters and general public. This is one of the best first issues we have seen. Eight pages long and bimonthly the first issue had articles on harassment of prison visitors, illiterate guards who fail their hiring tests after being trained by the DOC, the Florida DOC grievance system and the successful court challenge to the random drug testing program in Florida. It also includes resources and other information. All Florida prisoners should get this zine. Subscriptions cost $4 for prisoners, $8 for free people and $20 for institutions, from: FPLP, P.O. Box 660-387, Chuluota, FL 32766.
Double-Time is the bimonthly newsletter of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women. The newsletter covers issues of interest to women prisoners in general, prison resources, articles and more. In addition to the newsletter the Clearinghouse also provides critical assistance, resources and support to battered women who have killed or assaulted their abusers while protecting themselves, been coerced into crime by their abusers or are charged with failing to protect their children from the batterer. They provide legal, social science and psychological information on these issues to defense teams as well as consultations, resources and direct information. Anyone interested in the topics of violence against women, women in prison, etc. should check this out. Subscriptions are free to women in prison, individual rates are $35. Contact: NCDBW, 125 S. 9th St. Suite 302, Philadelphia, PA 19107. (215) 351-0010.
Underground: is the quarterly magazine of the North American Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group. They are dedicated to ending the exploitation of animals by any means necessary. Issues focus on militant actions around the world has taken against furriers, vivisectionists, factory farms, etc. It also includes sections on prisons and prisoners support, especially for those captured and imprisoned as a result of their animal liberation activities. They also have other publications and information available. At a time when most of the mainstream "environmental" groups have sold out to corporate interests the ALF is an international grassroots efforts to make animal exploiters accountable for their actions. Highly recommended. Send donation to: NAALFSG, P.O. Box 8673, Victoria, B.C. V8X 3S2, Canada.
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