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From the Editor

Welcome to another issue of PLN . Readers who have been with us for awhile may recall that Ed Mead and I have a suit pending against the Washington State Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB), AKA the parole board. Ed was the co-editor of PLN from 1990, when we started, until he was released from prison in 1993 and the parole board forbade him from having any contact with me and other "convicted felons." The ACLU of Washington filed suit on our behalf contending that this ban, which was clearly aimed at silencing PLN , was a violation of our freedom of speech. In essence the ISRB is saying that if Ed wanted to continue editing or publishing PLN, they would put him in prison. The freedom of speech pundits in the corporate media haven't had much to say about this.

Tacoma federal Judge Robert Bryan dismissed our suit holding that if prisoners have no right to correspond then neither do parolees. Our attorneys, Frank Cuthbertson and Michael Kipling, have filed an appeal in the ninth circuit. The issues raised are important ones, namely, the political rights of parolees to associate (in this case by mail and phone) with "convicted felons" for the purpose of political speech and activity. It seeks to reassert the principle that parolees have more rights than prisoners. The attorneys have done an excellent job in presenting the issues. We have also filed suit in state court on this issue. We will keep you updated on both suits.

In our past few editorials Dan and I have dwelt at length on PLN ' s need for more money from its readers. We have been hit with increased postage costs and the price of newsprint has gone up 50% in the past year with more increases ahead. At the same time PLN has chosen to expand our number of pages from 20 to 24, and keep our monthly schedule, while other prison publications are cutting back. The quarterly Prison Project Journal is cutting its number of pages and Prison News Service is going from a bi-monthly to a quarterly production schedule. We think there is a greater need than ever for publications like ours.

To cut expenses what we are doing is cutting down the number of free subscriptions we are able to provide to prisoners in control units and on death row and also limiting the number of trial subscriptions and their length. Since we started we have always given away as many subscriptions as we can afford to. When times are good more control unit and death row prisoners got complimentary subs; when times are tough that number goes down. We are solely reader supported which means that unless you, our readers, send donations we stop publishing. We have always expected prisoners in population to pay their way. When prisoners write in complaining that they only earn $25 a month and can't afford a donation that doesn't get much sympathy as Dan and I are making ends meet on 25 and 38 cents an hour that we earn in kitchen and tutoring jobs, respectively. When PLN began Ed and I made up money shortfalls from our pockets. So please don't tell us about how tough things are in prison "x". If you're in population and can't hustle a few books of stamps as a donation then nothing PLN has to say will be of any use to you.

Among the things that sets PLN apart from other publications is that we are prisoners ourselves and we hope we provide a voice for progressive prisoners and jailhouse lawyers and their supporters. We aren't in this to make money. We think that a money oriented goal is incompatible with our goal of being an independent voice for prisoners. There are too many people out there who are willing to use prisoners as a resource to mine for profits!

An example of this is Prison Life Magazine which bills itself as the "only free world based magazine by convicts and ex-convicts" and "The Voice of the Convict." As PLN readers know, the first assertion isn't true. I can only wonder about the convicts' voice when the November issue of Prison Life has a full page color ad hawking "Prison Blues" jeans. Prison Blues is a brand of clothing made with prison slave labor in the Oregon DOC. Oregon prisoners are paid "wages" of $6-8.00 an hour, but 80% of those "wages" are confiscated for various deductions, including "room and board." Prison Blues is an enterprise owned and operated by the Oregon DOC. It is not a private company. [See: PLN , May, 1994, "Slaves of the State."] But the fact that Prison Life sold the ad space to the Oregon DOC is not surprising, as it is in business to make money. In a New York Times interview their editor, Richard Stratton, stated forthrightly that they see prisoners as a big captive market they plan to deliver to advertisers. PLN isn't opposed to ads in general; we are just picky about the ones we run, and because we have political principles we won't take money from anyone that is opposed to our principles or goals. If we did there wouldn't be much difference between us and the corporate media, would there?

So if you think that prisoners and, yes, convicts, need and deserve a voice like PLN, please support us. If you're a prisoner all we ask is that you carry your own weight and cover the roughly $12 a year it takes to cover your subscription. If you're a free person, donate more if you can afford it. If you're an attorney or professional subscribing at the individual rate please upgrade to an institutional subscription. Everyone can help by encouraging others to subscribe; a bundle of 23 PLNs is available for $3 to cover postage. Enjoy this issue of PLN . The PLN collective wishes all PLN readers a more militant new year of greater struggle.

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