Keeping these twenty pages filled and mailed out to 1,200 readers is no small task. Each month I mail out about 50 letters, 75 post cards and a dozen or so invoices to PLN subscribers. I generate most of the "routine" correspondence. Paul answers most of the personal and business oriented mail. He sends out as much or more mail as me.
Every business day another batch of reader mail arrives from our P.O. Box in Florida If we only get one piece of mail a year from 1,200 readers... well, you work out the math I keep several piles of letters, magazines, newsletters, half-written articles, clippings, submissions by readers, and wire-service clippings in my cell. If I try and kick back and take it easy for a day or two, the piles tip over and I have to start pulling the plow again.
We have corresponded with others in the small press trade. Most have said that when the mailing list reaches about 1,200 you either cut, fold or get your act together. We're in the process of getting our act together.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Paradam Foundation, who made no demands on our editorial content, we have been able to purchase a new computer and laser printer for a left coast volunteer and a scanner and OCR software for a volunteer back East. Paul and I write the articles here in our cells. We mail the copy to volunteers "out there" who scan it and desktop publish it. All of the scanning and DTP has been handled by one volunteer. We now have two volunteers to do the scanning, and three volunteers to do DTP; each will do every third issue.
The mailing used to be handled by East coast volunteers. Peeling and sticking thousands of labels each month, bundling and sorting the stuff according to strict postal guidelines, and going to the post office was getting to be quite a chore. Starting with the February issue the printer will handle all of it. But like all good things in life, it costs money. And yep, here's your favorite part of the Editorial - where we exhort you, our faithful readers, to keep them checks and postage stamps coming.
Although we got the Paradam grant to help us purchase hardware and software (one-time expenses), we remain committed to being entirely "reader supported." The motto on our masthead is "Working to Extend Democracy to All." Well, if you know anything about how "democracy" works in this country, you appreciate the fact that elected officials do not dictate policy. That's right. They need money to get elected. Over $30 million was spent by two candidates for a California Senate seat. Where do politicians get this kind of money? And who do the winners "represent" now? The individuals and interest groups who ponied up the money are the ones who call the shots for the next six years. That's "democracy." Which brings me back to this "reader supported" thing. Our fixed costs (printing, mailing, postage, office supplies, etc.) approach a thousand dollars per month. As long as we're able to raise that money from our readers, then it's our readers who call the shots. If we ever get hooked up to some kind of regular grant money to cover our operating expenses... and, if like politicians, we need that money to operate... the ones who pass out the cash are the ones who start making "suggestions" about our editorial content. A recent grant proposal was turned down because the foundation (RESIST) disagrees with some of our editorial content. Fine. They keep the money, we keep our independence.
So if you value the issues of PLN we mail you each month, remember to hustle up what you can to send back to us. One final note on that. A lot of prisoners, especially the ones in ad-seg, super-max, or in states where there are few or no legitimate paying jobs, have trouble sending even a few stamps. If that's the case, and you want to keep getting PLN , drop us a post card or a letter. Explain what your situation is (in 100 words or less) and let us know that you want to be extended. If you care about it enough to at least drop us a line, we'll carry you for another six months or a year.
One of the never ending chores that keep us occupied, is beating back the forces of censorship. In July PLN was permanently banned in North Carolina prisons by Lynn Phillips, the DOC Director. After a flurry of correspondence, affidavits, grievances between us at PLN , our readers in North Carolina, the North Carolina ACLU, DOC and AG's Office, they realized the error of their ways. Prisoners in North Carolina don't have "Inmate Law Libraries" so their reliance on PLN for relevant case citations is especially critical. But this was just one case. We have had the same censorship battles with Washington, California, Texas, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Indiana, and have weathered minor skirmishes with a number of other states and principalities (individual prison mail rooms). Each struggle requires time, energy, and a lot of letters to ensure that our rights to publish and the rights of our readers to receive Prison Legal News prevail.
If you are a prisoner and miss an issue, check with your mail room. Let them know that you expected an issue of PLN , but you didn't get it. You should always get each month's issue by the end of that calendar month. If you miss two issues, write us and let us know. We'll check into it. The first step is to send you back a letter, first class postage. If that gets to you, which means we have your correct mailing address, then the next step is for you to file a grievance. If you can't resolve it on your end, our office manager in Florida will mail you an affidavit stating that such-and-such issues of PLN were duly mailed to you at such-and-such an address. This, along with a reminder to the prisoncrats of your rights to receive legal publications, and some inquiries by the local ACLU or other activist organizations, is usually enough to clear up whatever the "problem" was.
Lastly, if you'd be willing to help spread us around a little bit, send 10 stamps to cover the postage and we'll mail you a bundle of 25 PLN s. Pass 'em out at meetings, drop 'em off at your local law library, or whatever you think might help us reach our "target audience." We'd appreciate your help getting us more well known. We know there are more readers out there who would like to subscribe, we just need to get that first issue in their hands. Thank you for supporting us. As long as you need us and appreciate what we do, we'll keep on doing it. Enjoy this issue, pass it on when you're done.
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