The outreach mailings eat up money fast. But because most PLN subscribers renew, the cash we pour into outreach mailings isn't going into a sinkhole. It's an investment in PLN's long-term viability.
As of this writing, we have expended all of the grant money. In order to continue the sample mailings through May of next year, we'll have to rely on reader donations and new subscriptions. I think we can do it. And when I say "we" I am including the entire PLN family of editors, staff, volunteers, and subscribers.
If you have not already, you will soon receive PLN's annual fundraiser letter. Please watch for it and donate generiously. One of the expenses PLN faces is upgrading our two computers with Pentium motherboards, more memory, and installing Windows 95. This is necessary in order for us to install a new custom-designed subscriber mailing list software system. The software is being designed by a long-time PLN supporter and volunteer who is also a professional software developer. He is donating the program to PLN (he says the same type of custom software would cost a corporate customer $10,000). The expenses add up quickly. But so do donations. So please contribute what you can today, even if it's just a few dollars or a book of stamps.
If you can't afford a monetary donation, you can still help by finding us just one new PLN subscriber. Heck, if every PLN reader signed up one new subscriber, guess what? Our goal of doubling PLN's circulation would be a done deal!
On page 31 of this issue is a full-page ad for PLN's book, "The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry". Getting the book published has been a real learning experience. You have no idea how tight the book selling market is. Our publisher, Common Courage Press, has limited the first press run to 3,000 copies. They say we'll be lucky if the first printing sells out. Considering the massive amount of work that went into producing the manuscript, that prognosis is disheartening. Needless to say, we're hoping to overcome the long odds against the book going into a second printing. Promotion and advertising are huge hurdles to overcome. Please help by spreading the word and encourage people (especially folks on the outside) to buy the book.
The book will not be available in book stores until March. Until then, you can order it exclusively directly from PLN. By ordering the book through PLN (rather than from the publisher or through a book store) you are helping PLN financially.
Money, money, money. It all comes down to money. I hope you don't get half as tired of being hit-up for donations or (or hyped to "buy, buy, buy" the PLN book) as we get from the endless fundraising, hyping and promoting. But it has to be done. PLN is more than a 24-page magazine. PLN offers a ray of hope to prisoners, a voice in the struggle.
Literally billions of dollars are pouring into the coffers of the U.S. Prison-Industrial Complex. Every one of those billions goes towards keeping prisoners down, getting tough on prisoners, tightening the limits on prisoners' property, closing prison law libraries, building high-tech control units, hiring more guards and paying them more overtime, and paying parole boards to hand out lengthy flops.
PLN is one of the few, tiny, struggling organizations working to stem the "get tough" avalanche that threatens to bury us all. I said it comes down to money. But it's much more than a question of cash. It's a question of struggle. If you are in prison, would you rather lay down and let 'em bury you? Or do you want to be a part of the struggle?
PLN has a new web site: www.prisonlegalnews.org. Right now our webmaster is an unpaid volunteer. Since he has to work a "real job" to put food on the table, he is limited in the time he can devote to maintaining the web site. We are attempting to secure funding to bring him on board as a full-time paid staff. If we can do so, he'll have time to upload and hypertext link every PLN law article published since 1990. We plan to add pre-1990 case summaries as soon as we can research and write them. The PLN case summaries will be hyperlinked to the full text of the actual court rulings. We also plan to house a National Brief Bank on the web site.
It is an incredibly ambitious undertaking. But we think it's the next logical step in the struggle. Prison law libraries have already closed in Arizona. Other states (e.g. California) are following a similar path. But rather than kill their prison law libraries with one blow, they are cutting off funding and will slowly starve them to death. Hence the PLN research site.
Obviously, prisoners don't surf the 'Net, but most prisoners have people on the outside who can access the 'Net and download stuff for them. However, before the PLN web-based prison civil rights litigation research site and national brief bank can become a reality, literally thousands of hours of work will have to go into loading all of the data onto the site. It can be done with no less than one full-time staff, with the help of numerous volunteers. And in order for the project to be financially self-sufficient for the long term, we plan to charge a nominal subscription fee to access the litigation research portion of the web site. The largest legal on-line service, Westlaw, charges something like $150 an hour for access. We are hoping to charge that amount as an annual subscription fee for a full year of unlimited access.
But I have reached the end of the page. You will hear more about the PLN web site in the coming months. Let's hope the funding comes through so there will be more to tell. Until next month (and next year) enjoy this issue of PLN. Pass it along to a friend. Encourage others to subscribe. And please do your part to help keep the struggle alive.
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