The Good News: PLN was recently awarded two grants for $10,000 each. One is from the Solidago Foundation, the other is from the Center on Crime, Communities and Culture of the Open Society Institute. The grants will support PLN's operating expenses and strategic planning over the next year, with a primary goal of increasing our paid circulation. PLN has always been reader supported and retains the long term goal of maintaining its editorial independence and financial self sufficiency. These grants will assist our transition through a rough period in PLN's growth toward a future of sustained independence and economic self sufficiency.
Over the past sixteen months or so we have been working especially hard to increase our circulation and income. In addition to rising printing and postage costs we made the big step of adding a paid staff person to augment our volunteers. We finished 1996 having taken in about $32,000 in subscription income and spending about $40,000. Thanks to the $5,000 grant we received from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the generosity of PLN readers who responded to our emergency fund raising appeal, we made it through 1996 with $20 to spare. I think most people will agree that is cutting it too close.
Over the remainder of the year we plan to mail at least 30,000 sample PLN's to potential subscribers, including members of the criminal defense bar. By building up our subscriber base we cut down on our per issue costs which will increase PLN's long term viability. We've been around more than seven years now and plan to be around a while. In the past we were cautious about seeking grants (as well as being unsuccessful) because we have seen many groups that became dependent upon grant money, only to collapse when the funding dried up. We intend to use the money for something PLN has never been able to do in the past, namely a sustained outreach campaign of sample mailings.
One of our goals is to reach more prisoners. We're finding that there are virtually no national prisoner mailing lists and few up to date state based lists of prisoners. All too often the groups that have such mailing lists refuse to share them so we can do sample mailings. So if readers have any suggestions on groups whose membership would likely be interested in PLN, and the group would share their mailing list, please let us know. Likewise, if you're a prisoner please let your fellow prisoners know about PLN and encourage them to subscribe. You're our best means of advertising and getting the word out!
The Ugly News: In March, 1996, we added John Midgley as our first columnist. That issue was censored at a Florida prison when officials claimed John's article (on how to sue the right defendants) was a "threat to security." Eventually our readers received that issue. We then added political prisoners Laura Whitehorn and Mumia Abu Jamal to our columnist line up to bring our readers thought provoking commentary they won't find elsewhere. We've been very successful in doing so.
As PLN readers know, Mumia has experienced censorship by various media outlets that have knuckled under to the police lobby and whacko reactionaries who are afraid of letting the public hear from articulate prisoners. In his October, 1996, column Mumia wrote about his court hearing where prison officials admitted opening, reading and copying his legal mail to and from his attorneys. Personally, I liked it and thought he made good points. Alas, prison officials at the Susanville, CA prison weren't as enthused. When PLN subscriber Ronald Alexander wrote to tell us that his October issue was censored because of Mumia's column our publisher immediately appealed
The response we received from a W. Minnick states: "We banned this issue based upon an editorial by an Abu Mumia Jamal (sic), a controversial convicted murder(sic), now on death row in Illinois for killing a peace officer. Mr. Jamal's editorial was both racially inciting (anti-white) and spoke out against law enforcement personnel. We took it to be quite inflammatory and not appropriate for the institutional setting at CCC." CDC officials upheld the censorship. Mumia is in PA and its Mumia Abu Jamal. It's amazing when different people read the same thing and draw different conclusions. I read the article several times and didn't get inflamed. The CDC reversed its censorship of the October issue as we began the litigation process.
Speaking of small minded bigots, just when we thought at least we have one non controversial columnist we received an angry reader subscription cancellation. In her February, 1997, column Laura expressed her dismay at the silence of many in the Jewish community after the Israeli supreme court announced the torture of Palestinian prisoners was acceptable. A Florida reader wrote in and asked us to print her defense of Zionism. We declined to do so because philosophical discussions on Zionism are beyond PLN's scope of prison issues. In any case, we don't think that the judicially sanctioned torture of prisoners is defensible under any circumstances. In a rather hysterical and abusive letter the reader canceled her subscription to PLN and in the process accused PLN's editors of being anti-Semitic and stated that Laura's article would increase attacks on Jewish prisoners in the U.S. by upsetting indignant racists who read Laura's column. Some things are too stupid to merit a response, and this is one of them.
Just as we would, and should, be outraged if the U.S. supreme court issued a ruling saying it was okay for police to torture only black prisoners we are indignant and outraged that the Israeli supreme court did just that. If anything, Laura's column didn't go far enough by pointing out the Landau commission officially sanctioned the torture of Palestinians in 1987 and the high court merely rubber stamped long standing government policy. Several other readers have written in to express their appreciation for our columnists' articles. So a big thank you to John, Laura and Mumia for taking their time to write a quarterly column for PLN.
We are pleased at the fact our columnists are getting people to think. If we lose a few subscribers along the way that's unfortunate. We don't tell our columnists what to write nor do we censor their columns. What you see in PLN's pages is what they write for us. As always, we welcome feedback from our readers, so let us know what you would like to see in PLN and any suggestions about our coverage. Enjoy this issue of PLN.
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