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From the Editor

September, 2001, marks the 30th anniversary of the modern prisoner rights movement in the United States. In September, 1971, prisoners in Attica, New York, rose up to protest horrendous conditions. The uprising occurred after peaceful means of protest had failed and prisoners refused to be "driven like beasts" any longer. On September 14, 1971, Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered state police and prison guards to retake the prison, which they did. In the process, 43 people were murdered by police and guards. In the aftermath, an orgy of brutality and sadism ensued against the survivors. PLN has reported the events at Attica in the past so I won't belabor the details.

Attica was a milestone in that the state's brutality was exposed for the world to see. The squalid conditions of Attica were little different from those of hundreds of prisons around the country. "Every prison is Attica, Attica is every prison," was a rallying cry of the day.

Around the country prisoners themselves were organizing and the mass movements for civil rights, feminism, anti-imperialism, etc., supported prisoners in their struggle. The courts also began to get involved after almost 200 years of studied indifference to the plight of American prisoners. Entire prison systems were found unconstitutional and extensive reforms were ordered by judges.

Thirty years later a lot has changed and not much has changed. The prison and jail population has more than quadrupled to two million people. The American gulag archipelago has expanded to almost 2,000 prisons and over 3,000 jails. As the progressive political movements on the outside withered, so did the prison movement. By the early 1990's the prison reform movement had been broadly replaced by the "penal harm movement" that aimed to make imprisonment even more crippling and abnormal than it already was.

PLN has been around for the last 11 years, reporting on the decline and the rebirth of the prison struggle movement. Recent years have seen the development of grass roots groups around the country that are opposed to the drug war, mass imprisonment, private prisons, the prison industrial complex, etc.

Both the courts and the legislatures have retreated from the very concept of progressive prison reform. That said, prisoners are winning bigger verdicts and settlements in civil rights litigation than ever before. PLN has reported more six and seven figure verdicts for prisoners in the past two years than we did in the previous nine years combined.

Is the worst over for prisoners? Probably not. That said, the next few years hold the promise of great opportunity to impact and change the nation's criminal justice system. Especially as the nation's economy declines and with it the tax base most states rely on to pay for their prisons.

Which is all the more reason to support PLN . Having reported all the developments of the past 11 years, we look forward to reporting future progress and making our contribution to that struggle. To do this we need your help. If you haven't donated to PLN 's matching grant fundraiser, please do so. Your support is vital and essential for PLN' s survival and growth.

We would like to thank the Chaney Foundation in Washington for donating two new computers to PLN to better improve our office operations and technology. PLN' s previous computers were antiquated and had also been damaged in the aftermath of the departure of our former office manager. The Chaney Foundation is also sponsoring trial subscriptions to prisoners in states where PLN has a low readership.

We are still busy reorganizing PLN' s office and making changes to improve both our circulation and our reader service. We hope to have that finished by the end of August. Enjoy this issue of PLN and encourage others to subscribe.

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