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PLN Sues Kansas DOC Over Censorship Policies

PLN Sues Kansas DOC over Censorship Policies

On April 4, 2002, PLN sued the Kansas DOC challenging various prison-system-wide polices that prevent Kansas prisoners from being able to subscribe to PLN or to receive the books that PLN distributes. For at least the past year the Kansas DOC has required that prisoners pay for all magazine subscriptions and book purchases from their prison trust accounts. Gift subscriptions from friends or relatives or free subscriptions from publishers are not allowed. In addition to limiting prisoners to only those subscriptions and publications they purchase from their trust accounts, the Kansas DOC further places an arbitrary limit of $30 per month as the amount prisoners can spend on subscriptions or magazines. Prisoners who are on "level 1", a form of classification status which includes both new arrivals and those who are not "programming," are not allowed to receive any publications at all, even if they pay for them from their trust accounts. The ban on publications for level 1 prisoners does not apply to religious publications, but it does apply to political and legal publications like PLN .

These policies have resulted in prisoners who subscribe to PLN having their subscriptions censored because they did not pay for the subscriptions themselves, as well as preventing prisoners from ordering books from PLN or subscribing. Moreover, this censorship occurs with no notice to PLN or the sender of the materials and no opportunity to appeal or otherwise contest the matter. PLN is also precluded from sending free books or subscriptions to Kansas prisoners because of these policies.

In its lawsuit, filed in federal court in Topeka, PLN claims that these policies violate its right to free speech and due process of law as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. PLN is seeking declaratory relief that these policies are unconstitutional, an injunction enjoining their enforcement and compensatory and punitive damages, as well as its attorney fees and costs. PLN is represented by Lawrence, Kansas, attorney Bruce Plenk. We will report developments in the case as they occur. See: Prison Legal News v. Simmons , USDC DKS, case No. 024054JAR.

PLN has successfully litigated challenges to bans on gift subscriptions against the prison systems in Washington and Alabama. The Missouri prison system changed its policy banning gift subscriptions several years ago after receiving a demand letter from PLN 's counsel.

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Related legal case

Prison Legal News v. Simmons

The complaint and final injunction in the case are available in the briefbank.