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From the Editor

This issue marks PLN's sixth year of publishing and 72 consecutive issues. For anyone familiar with alternative publications in general and prison publications in particular this is a significant milestone. Ed Mead and I started PLN on a trial basis in 1990, we decided to print six issues and see if it generated any support. We believed that there was a need for progressive prisoners to have a publication which represented their interests and use it as a vehicle to try to impact the prison struggle and debate around criminal justice issues. Our first 8 issues were hand typed, photocopied and mailed by a sole volunteer in Seattle to the 75 people on our mailing list. We had a rocky start, our first volunteer got indignant over an article that appeared in our second issue, refused to print it and ran off with PLN's total treasury of fifty bucks and our master copy. Washington prison officials banned PLN in every prison in the state and Ed and I were subjected to the typical heavy handed repression they enjoy.

Despite that we persevered and continued. We found new volunteers to copy and mail PLN, we slowly gained more readers and supporters across the country. After our first three issues we were preparing to file suit challenging the Washington ban on PLN when prisoncrats reversed the ban. One warden told us we wouldn't last because our ideas were outmoded and would find little resonance among prisoners. That was six years ago and now we have more than 2,000 US subscribers. As they say the rest is history.

In 1993 Ed got out of prison and the Washington parole board put a restriction on him that he would be returned to prison if he had any contact with other prisoners for the purposes of publishing PLN. The Washington ACLU has been litigating this matter on our behalf ever since. Dan had assisted with PLN since our inception and he became the new coeditor. Most readers are only familiar with Dan and myself but PLN would never have been possible without the invaluable support we have received from volunteers over the years.

Our pool of volunteers has changed over the years as people come and go, but each of them helped make PLN possible. We have to extend our thanks and gratitude to Janie, Jim, Cindy, Michael, Carol, Carrie, Scott and Judy who helped PLN in our early years. Dan A. has always been there to support PLN whenever we needed it and has bailed PLN out more than once. Dan T. has given invaluable assistance on computers, information and Internet issues, while Curtis has done a great job keeping PLN on the Internet. Allan has selflessly contributed photocopying, scanning services and other help, Ellen and Cathy have helped with software, computer assistance and material support. Wes provides great access to court rulings and media information despite a hectic schedule as a law student. Since 1992 Sandy has been a volunteer who started out helping us fold and staple PLN when we had a circulation of just 300, she has always been there when we needed her support and is now handling PLN's desktop publishing and mailing list tasks on a full time basis. My father Rollin has been PLN's publisher since about our third issue. We didn't know anyone who had a P.O. Box and we needed someone trustworthy to handle our mail and banking. We asked him to do this on a temporary basis while we found someone in Seattle. That was six years ago and "temporary" became permanent.

Since the very beginning the comrades at Arm The Spirit in Toronto, Canada, have ensured PLN reaches people in Asia, Latin America and Canada. Our European distributors have been the Anarchist Black Cross in Oxford, England and Durchblick in Germany and is now Solidarieta Proletaria in Italy. They help make sure that PLN is read by another 200 or so people in 27 other countries. The folks at the New Flag have always been supportive and helped when we really needed it. In addition to these there are the many other people, far too numerous to name, who have helped publicize PLN, sent us clippings and information, contributed articles, answered our questions and of course, all of our readers who have subscribed and given us financial support. It's hard to overestimate the value of any one volunteer or contributor simply because without each and every one PLN would not be possible. Dan and I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped make PLN what it is today.

At this point in our development our main focus is on increasing PLN's circulation. We need more subscribers in order to cover our increased costs. We would like to ask you, our readers to help us reach more people. We can send you PLN subscription flyers which can be copied and distributed to potential subscribers. A bundle of PLN's is available for ten stamps and a mailing label. Anything that will let folks know about PLN and subscribe is helpful. With more than 1.5 million prisoners and detainees, PLN is the only national prisoner produced publication that supports the rights of all prisoners. Sometime in the next few months we will be raising our subscription rates to cover increased expenses. The more subscribers we get the longer we can hold off increasing our rates (in six years we have only increased our rates once, from $10 to $12 for individuals and $35 to $50 for institutions). Our new rates will be $15 for prisoners, $20 for non-prisoners and $50 for institutions.

Since November, 1995, Works in Progress, an alternative paper in Olympia, WA, has taken it upon themselves to distribute PLN to all 150 Washington state legislators. We don't know that it does any good but at least now legislators can't plead ignorance of prison issues, just opportunism. Groups or individuals in other states who would like to make similar arrangements should contact us to discuss the details.

In the February PLN we ran the letter from the "'Angry White Man" who complained that PLN was biased against whites. Since then three other prisoners have chimed in supporting AWM, I found it interesting that these weren't even subscribers! PLN has never claimed to be objective (objectivity is usually just a code word for pro-government bias anyway), we've always been up front about supporting prisoners and the struggle for prisoner rights. Likewise we've never hid the fact that we're left leaning politically. We have always put forward a class based analysis of prison issues. It states the obvious to point out that the bulk of people in prison are poor. That minorities are disproportionately imprisoned simply reflects the fact they are disproportionately among the poor. It is ironic that white prisoners are willing to defend a system that hasn't done much for them. I responded to one of the irate writers that I was willing to bet he had been arrested by white cops, prosecuted by a white prosecutor, convicted by a white jury and sentenced by a white judge. So what's the white power structure done for him lately? Class trumps race every time--which should be apparent to every prisoner. Dan recommended Howard Zinn's book on American history. A book that makes very good points, despite some shortcomings, about racism in the US is Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat by J. Sakai, available from MIM Notes on page 24 of this PLN. To this day race is used to divide the working class and this is nowhere more evident than in prisons where all too often prisoners are divided by race and origin. In the meantime prisoncrats have their way with us. It shouldn't take a degree in rocket scientry to realize it makes little difference what color the foot inside the boot on our neck is. For those prisoners who agree with AWM, hey, maybe you should get your prison news from Rush Limbaugh, he'll tell you racial not financial minorities are running things and all prisons are country clubs.

Happy anniversary and we hope to have a lot more. Enjoy this issue of PLN and pass it along to others when you're done with it.

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