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by Dan Pens  

Welcome to the special 28-page 5th anniversary issue of PLN. With this issue we begin our sixth year of continuous publishing. Our first issue was ten pages, typewritten, photocopied and mailed 1st class to 75 readers. A lot has happened over five years. As we have grown, the workload has increased enormously. It has turned into a full-time job for both Paul and me. In addition, we rely on the efforts of an increasing number of volunteers to keep us going.  

A special thanks go to Dan and Sandy who have helped with the desktop publishing, mailings and a hundred other details. Thanks also to Rollin, our publisher, who manages the Florida PO Box and handles the PLN bank account. Allan does the OCR scanning, is a valuable computer consultant, and has contributed a lot of time and money to do photocopying for us. Another Dan is our gateway to the Internet. He surfs the net and downloads news items of interest for Paul and I to scan through. Dan has also helped us keep up on the activities of the legislature and is an invaluable computer consultant. Ellen contributed much of the software we use and has helped with fund raising efforts. George has helped straighten out problems with the post office. In the early days we had help from people like Janie, Jim, Michael, Scott, Carol, Ann, Kris and others when we really needed it. There are simply too many people who help us in countless ways to thank them all in this column. Paul and I put our names on the editorial page, but were only a small part of the network of people whose efforts sustain and support our work. So to the rest of you, you know who you are, a heartfelt thanks for all you contribute to PLN.  

This past year saw a lot of growing pains. We have been chronically late with our deliveries from March of 1994 through March of 1995. We have finally gotten back on track, and since the April issue we have mailed on time. Something that has always demanded a lot of our time is the problem of prison mail rooms "losing" issues or marking them "refused" and sending them back. In "the good old days" we would respond by hopping on our horses and riding into battle with the prisoncrats. Wed send a letter to the aggrieved reader informing him/her that "it looks like we are having a problem with officials in the mail room there." Yesterday I sent out the first batch of letters with one important word change - the letters inform our reader that "it looks like you are having a problem with officials in the mail room there." Its just one little word, but it reflects a big change in the way we operate. Paul and I no longer have time to hop on our horses and ride out to every little skirmish. There are too many of them for us to handle alone. We need our imprisoned readers to fight the local fights themselves. If your PLN isnt getting to you, write us a letter and let us know whats happening. But more important, write a letter of complaint or grievance to the mail room or warden and send us a copy. If youre unable to straighten it out on your end, or if its a problem that effects readers in an entire prison or state, Paul and I will hop on our horses.

In five years we have raised our subscription rates only once. When we expanded from ten to sixteen pages we increased our individual subscription rate from $10 to $12 a year, and our institutional rate from $25 to $35 per year. Postage rates increased at the beginning of this year, and yesterday our printer told us that printing costs are going up by 20% due to a paper shortage.  

Prior to 1994 our records are scanty, but since January of 1994 heres the scoop. Our readers have donated an average of $1,054 per month. About 60% of our readers are prisoners, and they contribute about 40% of the donations. The average amount donated (by all readers) per issue is $1.02. During the same time span our average operating expenses were 99¢ per issue. These figures do not reflect the money taken in from grants and large donations, and they also do not reflect capital expenditures (such as computers and software) and promotional expenses (approx. 6,000 sample copies we have mailed out). So as it is, we are operating on the ragged edge. The latest rise in printing costs (our single biggest operating expense) will push us over that edge. As such, we are planning to raise our institutional subscription rate from $35 to $50 per year. The individual rate will remain at $12. Youre always welcome to donate more, though.  

Were in the midst of a subscription drive, and hope to reach 2,000 subscribers within the next few months. When we reach that plateau well expand our format to 24 pages and raise our institutional subscription rate to $50 per year.  

One final note. On Friday, March 17th Paul was placed in ad-seg for allegedly being involved in a work strike. Apparently the DOC heard rumors of an impending work stoppage and gaffed Paul up as "one of the usual suspects." He was released back into population five days later, partly because the charges proved to be false. But part of the reason the "investigation" was concluded and Paul released within a mere five days was due to the immense number of phone calls, faxes and letters prison officials received from PLN supporters and prison rights activists who responded to this injustice. Paul and I thank those who intervened on his behalf. Thats all. Enjoy this issue and pass it on to a friend, and please encourage your friends, colleagues and family members to subscribe.  

Tip of the month: read anything written by Noam Chomsky.

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