As we got underway we discovered that this growth requires a new mailing list program. PLN has used the same program, designed by Dan in 1991, for the past six years. While the program has served us well in the past it is now outmoded and slowly dying. The good news is that one of our volunteers, a professional computer programmer, is custom designing a new mailing list program for PLN, one that is quicker and more efficient to use. The down side is that due to software advances this will require that we upgrade our computer equipment in order to actually use it. PLN subscribers will soon be receiving a fundraiser letter from us asking if you can donate a little extra to help us upgrade our computer equipment. If you can donate a little extra please do so and encourage others to subscribe. It all helps us lower our costs. We would like to thank Ellen Spertus for donating the software and Dan Axtell for designing the new program.
The long awaited PLN book, ""The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry" will soon be available exclusively from PLN. It won't be available in bookstores until March, so you will have a chance to get a copy before anyone else does. If you buy the book from PLN, PLN gets the book profits. This is the perfect holiday gift. Is it a good book? You bet it is. Find out what's going on in the American gulag from first hand accounts. If this book does well we look forward to a sequel.
A change we are making is raising the minimum donation amount for prisoners from $5 to $7.50. Our prisoner subscription rate is $15 for year and we will pro rate subscriptions for prisoners at $1.25 as long as a minimum of $7.50 was sent. Because we send renewal notices when subscriptions are within 4 issues of expiring, this resulted in new subscribers getting a renewal notice before they got their first issue of PLN, which in turn led to complaints and confusion. With a $7.50 minimum donation (for 6 issues) subscribers should get at least two issues of PLN before they get a renewal notice, and it will save PLN additional postage and staff time. When your subscription is within a year of expiring the expiration date will appear on your mailing label. You can save PLN time and money if you renew your subscription at least 6 months in advance of your subscription expiring. It also ensures you don't miss any issues. If you can afford it, please consider renewing for more than 1 year. We offer a free copy of Allan Parmelee's booklet "How Good Was Your Lawyer?" to anyone who subscribes or renews for two years ($30 for prisoners, $40 for non prisoners).
Everyone at PLN would like to express our sadness over the recent death of Michael Misrok, a longtime PLN volunteer and supporter. Michael originally became active in prison issues by joining the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown (CEML) in Chicago. A talented video producer he made several CEML videos on the lockdown at Marion and control unit prisons. Shortly after PLN started in 1990 Michael moved to Seattle and became a regular volunteer. Despite poor health Michael was always dependable and enthusiastic. In addition to prison issues Michael was also active in AIDS awareness projects right up until the end when he lost his own struggle with AIDS. Michael is warmly remembered and will be missed by everyone at PLN.
We would like to welcome Matthew Esget as PLN's new webmaster. For several years now PLN has had a website. As the internet has grown in importance as a means of disseminating information and reaching more people, so too has the need for prisoners to have a voice on the internet. By posting selected articles, indexes and other information on our website we hope to have a bigger impact. Matthew has volunteered to be PLN's webmaster and make it happen. If you can, check out PLN's website at: http://www.prisonlegalnews.org.
Lastly, people who follow the news may recall that earlier this summer president Clinton floated the idea of having the government apologize to blacks for slavery. After an outpouring of indignation from the punditocracy, Clinton swiftly withdrew his suggested apology and said he would give some more thought to racial reconciliation in the U.S., presumably nothing that would upset right wingers.
Despite all the blather that Clinton's idea elicited, the corporate media was uniform in its common assumption that slavery in the US ended in 1865 and was long dead. In fact, many columnists in the corporate media objected to the proposal on the basis that they have never seen U.S. slavery in their lifetime and thus had nothing to apologize for. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Slavery is alive and well in the U.S. today. It is enshrined in the thirteenth amendment to the U.S. constitution, which states: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude" except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Judge Posner of the U.S. seventh circuit court of appeals recently noted "We know from the thirteenth amendment that it is permissible for the government to subject people to involuntary servitude as punishment for crimes; and it would be absurd to think that involuntary servitude, the polite word for slavery, carried with it an entitlement to a living wage."
From its founding to this very day slavery has been part and parcel of the American political and economic system. Rather than talk about apologizing for slavery, as if it ended long ago, how about ending it once and for all? That a topic like this isn't even on the political agenda in the U.S. says a lot about the shallowness and hypocrisy of American politics. With more than a million American prisoners relegated to the status of chattel slaves, it is quite untrue that slavery is a thing of the past to be apologized for now. [See: "Slaves of the State," by Paul Wright, PLN, May, 1994]. So if no one's going to apologize for slavery, why not do something better: End Prison Slavery! The slaves will be happier.
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