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PLN Sues Utah Department of Corrections Over Bulk Mail Ban

On April 23, 1998, PLN and PLN subscriber Walter Thomas filed suit against the Utah DOC in U.S. district court in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Utah DOC has a policy which prohibits prisoners from receiving materials sent via third and fourth class mail (AKA "bulk mail"). This includes publications by non profit organization such as PLN .PLN wrote Utah prison officials attempting to resolve the problem, to no avail. Walter Thomas, a prisoner at the Utah State Prison in Draper, subscribed to PLN in early 1998. The March, 1998, issue of PLN was not delivered to him at all, nor was the April PLN . The latter was returned to PLN marked "return to sender," "Bulk rate mail not accepted at UT state prison." At no time were either PLN or Thomas afforded an opportunity to appeal the censorship.

The lawsuit claims that the ban on bulk mail violates the plaintiffs' right to free speech and due process under both the Utah and U.S. constitutions. The plaintiffs seek a Temporary and Permanent Injunction enjoining enforcement of the bulk mail ban; declaratory judgement that the policy is unconstitutional; money damages and attorneys fees.

A federal court in Washington recently ruled that a prison's ban on bulk mail, as applied to PLN , violated the prisoner plaintiff's right to free speech and due process. See: Miniken v. Walter , 978 F. Supp. 1356 (ED WA 1997)[ PLN , Feb. 1998]. PLN is also a plaintiff in litigation challenging the Washington DOC's statewide ban on bulk mail. See: Humanists of Washington v. Lehman . [ PLN , Nov. 1997]

We will report the outcome of the Utah and Washington suits once they are resolved. PLN and Thomas are represented by Brian Barnard and Andrea Garland, attorneys with the Utah Legal Clinic. The case is: Prisoners' Legal News v. Haun , Case No. 98-CV-287C.

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Related legal case

Prisoners' Legal News v. Haun