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From the Editor

By Paul Wright

PLN recently gained the ability to process credit card orders for books, subscriptions, and donations. PLN's office phone number is on page two of every issue for those who wish to subscribe, renew their subscriptions, purchase books or just make a donation using their credit card. PLN accepts Visa and Master Charge.

For the past nine months or so PLN has been distributing the great book Lockdown America by Christian Parenti in hard cover for $25. Lockdown America has just been released in paperback and PLN is distributing it for $15 per copy. We no longer have copies of the hardcover book. If you haven't yet read Lockdown America it is well worth reading for its excellent political analysis and in-depth factual background on the modern American police and prison state. Look for ordering information in PLN's book ad in this issue.

In mid-September PLN settled its censorship suit with the Nevada Division of Prisons (DOP). For almost a year PLN itself and all mail from PLN was totally banned in all Nevada prisons under the guise that it was "inmate mail." Under the terms of the settlement PLN is once again allowed entry into Nevada prisons. PLN was paid $5,000 in damages to compensate it for the losses it suffered as well as to undo the censorship its Nevada subscribers suffered. This includes replacing the issues missed by our Nevada subscribers and extending their subscriptions for one year and reimbursing PLN for the staff time consumed in documenting the censorship. The DOP is balking at paying PLN's attorney fees and costs, which are already more than $40,000. The attorney fees and costs will be litigated in court. Once there is a final ruling on the fees we will report the settlement in its entirety.

PLN's matching grant fundraiser is still in progress. To qualify for the full $15,000 PLN must receive that much money from supporters before January 15, 2001. This reader support is vital for PLN's ongoing operation and survival. We would like to thank everyone who has donated already. If you have not yet donated please do so, every little bit helps.

The cover story of this month's PLN is on health care, or the lack thereof, in Nebraska. The next few issues of PLN will have feature stories on abysmal health care in prison. Like everything else, prisons are a microcosm of capitalist society at large. Just as poor and working people on the outside have problems with health care, so too do prisoners. While free people have HMOs to contend with, prisoners have privatized medical service companies: the HMOs from hell.

The death penalty gets a lot of attention, as it should, but more prisoners are murdered through medical neglect in American prisons each year than by executioners. Unlike condemned prisoners, those murdered through medical neglect don't get the benefit of judicial review. Instead, judge, jury, prosecutor and executioner are rolled into one. Usually a medical provider with a limited or suspended license with an extensive history of patient and medical abuse who is not employable in the free-world economy. Incompetence compounded with a little maliciousness and some neglect make for a deadly combination of death and needless suffering. In many cases the prisoners affected are serving short sentences or have not even been convicted.

The absence of adequate medical care is an issue that affects all prisoners, since any of us can get sick at anytime. All too often prisoners are dying of simple, treatable illnesses that escalated. For non-prisoners, prisons and jails are breeding grounds for disease that ultimately spreads into the community. As previously reported in PLN, the epicenter of a drug resistant strain of tuberculosis in the late 1980's was the Houston jail. Prisoners with AIDS who receive improper medication develop drug resistant strains that spread into the community. The epidemic of hepatitis C festering and growing in American prisons and jails ultimately spreads into the poor communities that most prisoners come from. This silent epidemic of misery and death is almost completely ignored by the corporate media. When it is covered it is portrayed as an isolated, local incident. Upcoming issues will focus on privatized prison health care companies as well. As shown by this month's cover story, we are comparing rotten oranges to rotten apples, the only difference is that when a private company denies prisoners adequate medical care, someone is making a profit by doing so.

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