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Editorial

Welcome to another issue of Prison Legal News. This issue marks another step in our evolution. For the past year Paul and I have struggled to edit the content of the newsletter, trying as much as possible to keep the fluff out in order to make room for more case reporting. It has been a losing battle. The only way we can catch up (and keep up) with the backlog of cases we need to report is by expanding the format from 20 pages to a hefty 24.

This comes at a time, however, when prices for newsprint paper are skyrocketing. The price has more than doubled since the beginning of 1994. As such, we need to raise our subscription rates to keep from incurring a negative cash flow. The suggested donation for an individual/prisoner subscription will remain at $12 per year, more if you can afford it. However, the Institutional subscription rate (for law libraries, universities, attorneys and other professionals, etc.) will increase to $50 per year. This should offset the higher printing costs for the expanded format. That's all we're looking for. We need to recover our operating expenses. If we're not doing that, we'll drop back down to 20 pages.

To help alleviate the price shock for our Institutional subscribers, we have coincided the rate increase with distribution of the long-awaited PLN subject/citation index. We completed the 1994 index and mailed copies to all (paying) PLN subscribers who have been with us since January of 1994. As soon as possible we'll get to work on the earlier years, starting with 1993 and working backwards. We're compiling the 1995 index as we go along. Starting with the January, 1996 issue, the annual index will be published in each January issue.

The 1994 index was photocopied, which is expensive. If you didn't get one, and want to order a copy, it'll cost you five big ones ($5.00). At that price, you might be better off getting a "bootleg" photocopy from your local law library. Go ahead. We're not copyrighted.

It took us a long time to find a professional (with a Masters in Library Science) to take on the indexing project. When we saw samples of her work, though, it became apparent that we didn't want a professional, legal-type index (with subject headings such as "Convicts", "Prisons", and "Constitutional Law") but rather an index that prison rights litigators can more easily use. So we developed our own system, with subject headings like "Disciplinary Hearings", "Retaliation", and "Consent Decrees." For those scholars and professionals with a preference for a more traditional index, we are indexed in the UMI Criminal Justice Periodical Index (starting with 1995) and the National Institute of Justice NCJRS Document Data Base (e-mail address: askncjrs@ncjrs.aspensys.com).

Compiling the index ourselves was quite a learning experience. It was a challenge to fit each article into one or another subject categories. Adding too many subject headings quickly makes the index unwieldy. One of the decisions on which Paul and I disagreed was where to pigeon-hole articles about the political disenfranchisement of prisoners - i.e. the fact that prisoners have no right to vote. Paul says the common sense solution was to put it in a category like "Voting" or "Elections." I decided to put those articles in the "Political Prisoner" category. Paul said that was goofy. But I held my ground. Putting those articles in the "Political Prisoner" category makes a statement. That is, there are only a few who are political prisoners 365 days a year. But for the rest of us, no matter what the circumstances of our conviction or sentencing, we're all "political prisoners" on election day.

Speaking of political prisoners. We're pretty annoyed at the prisoncrats at SCI Greene, in Waynesburg PA. Paul sent a letter from our publisher to Mumia Abu-Jamal, asking if there was anything we could do to support him. The keen-eyed SCI Greene mail-room officials seized the letter and infracted Mumia for "corresponding with an inmate," even though the letter was unsolicited. Mumia got 30 days in the slammer. This is part and parcel of the attempt by the state of PA to lynch Mumia. The PA DOC is doing whatever it can to see to it that Mumia is murdered. The infraction for the unsolicited letter of support gave them the excuse to deprive him of visits and contact with the media as his execution date was drawing closer. [Check out David Gilbert's review of Mumia's book in this issue of PLN].

In my May editorial I mentioned several publications that I enjoy reading and recommend to our readers. I left out two of my favorites. They are both quarterlies, which is probably why I forgot to mention them. I didn't have a copy of either anywhere near the top of my reading material stack. Check out Covert Action Quarterly, $22/yr, 1500 Massachusetts Ave NW, #732, Washington, DC 20005. It's a top-flight investigative news magazine. One of the things I like about it is the generous footnoting. They let you know exactly where they get their information. The most recent issue includes articles about the secret FISA (Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act) court that authorizes electronic surveillance within the U.S. There is an accompanying article by William Kunstler on the "Mugging of the Fourth" [amendment]. Very impressive, highly readable and informative. The other publication is Media Culture Review, $16/yr ($36 for Institutions), 77 Federal Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. The most recent issue has a "top ten" list of the most censored news stories of 1994, i.e. stuff the corporate media doesn't want us regular people to be informed about. Excellent, and highly recommended.

That's all for this month. Thank you for supporting Prison Legal News. Pass this issue along to a friend when you're done, and encourage them to subscribe, too!

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