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From the Editor

A PLN supporter recently commented that I must find editing PLN incredibly depressing given the content of the July, 1999, issue: medical neglect, rape, extrajudicial murders, brutality, sensory deprivation control units, random shootings, etc.

As an optimist, I see the prison struggle glass as being half full rather than half empty. Twenty five years ago most prisons and jails had no medical staffing at all, now they have inadequate and incompetent medical staffing. Nowadays guards who beat prisoners to death are sometimes subjected to a halfhearted prosecution and given a modest sanction if convicted. Before not even that happened. Women prisoners are no longer seen exclusively as the sexual playthings of male guards. This is progress, of sorts.

PLN doesn't report the news we do simply to bum everyone out. Last year when Chinese premier Li Peng toured the United States, the corporate media gave ample airtime and print space to human rights activists describing human and civil rights abuses in Chinese prisons in great detail. As I watched, I noted that everything they described as occurring in Chinese prisons: beatings, slave labor, political prisoners, brutality, long term isolation, etc., has been extensively reported in the pages of PLN as occurring right now, right here in the United States.

The only difference is that PLN doesn't get primetime television coverage to describe what is going on in American prisons and jails. At a time when the U.S. government increasingly uses the guise of "human rights" to justify its international aggression and imperialism, PLN is the only regular publication in existence dedicated to not only reporting the human rights abuses occurring in American prisons and jails, but the struggle to attempt to end them. PLN is also unique in that we are the only independent forum whose uncensored content is produced largely by prisoners.

If the rights of American prisoners are not the most unpopular political cause in America today, they are certainly in the top five. PLN is chronically underfunded, understaffed and has a small circulation. I suspect the situation would be different if we focused exclusively on the human rights of prisoners in say Yugoslavia, Cuba, China or Iraq. The farther away and more loathed by the U.S. government and its acolytes, the better. However, we don't. PLN reports not only the conditions and abuses of the American penal system but also the struggle, on all fronts, whether the courtroom, the legislature or the yard, to vindicate fundamental rights. When prisoners win an individual or collective victory, PLN is here to tell you about it. These are the bright spots in the otherwise bleak landscape of the end of the millennium American gulag.

Shortly after you receive this issue of PLN you should be receiving a fundraising letter from PLN. PLN urgently needs to raise $15,000 to hire a second staff person. With only one staff person PLN is extremely vulnerable to being put out of business by something as mundane as a traffic accident or illness. PLN has no safety net as far as its staff is concerned and we need to have one. On a day to day level, Fred, PLN's office manager, is grossly overworked and overburdened. He urgently needs help in the way of another staff person.

If you believe in the work PLN is doing and the news we are reporting, things no one else in the US is doing, then please show your support by sending a donation. No amount is too small. Don't think that your support is too small to matter. Every little bit helps. Even if you have no money to spare you can help PLN by letting others know PLN and encouraging them to subscribe, send a donation or buy books from us. For almost a decade we have relied almost exclusively on you, our readers, to support our work and allow us to continue.

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