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From the Editor
The people who deserve a grateful thank you for keeping PLN going into its thirteenth year include, in no particular order, Hans Sherrer, Allan Parmelee, Don Miniken, Sandy Judd, Thomas Sellman, Jo Wigginton, Linda Novenski, Elizabeth Howard, Virgil Knedlik, Ellen Spertus, Rollin Wright, Dan Axtell, Martin and Rebecca Chaney, and Walter Tillow and the folks at Prompt Press, as well as all of PLN 's writers who provide our content. We also owe many thanks to the lawyers who have provided PLN with counsel on everything ranging from taxes to intellectual property issues and who have represented us in censorship and public records litigation to ensure we can both get the information we need to report as well as ensuring our prisoner readers get PLN . This includes: Michael Gendler, Roger Madison, Bob Cumbow, David Zuckerman, Bob Kaplan, David Fathi, Don Evans, Brian Barnard, Bruce Plenk, Marc Blackman, Anne Brick, Don Specter and Heather McKay, Jesse Wing and Tim Ford, Darrell Cochran, Alison Howard and Andy Marr.
Our thanks also go to our many supporters and our readers and advertisers who have steadfastly supported PLN and helped us continue our work. We would also like to thank everyone who contributed to our matching grant fundraiser this year. We did meet our goal of raising $15,000 in matching funds, but we did not reach that amount until the deadline was almost on top of us. Every little bit really did help us to meet our goal, so many thanks to those who made the extra effort to contribute this year. We are very pleased with the results of the matching grant fundraiser, as it has helped PLN overcome a great deal of the difficulty in this past year.
We have a number of exciting new projects underway for 2002, including a new book, a greatly enhanced index, and expanded selection of book titles and a revamped website. All of these are possible only because of our reader's support.
We also received an extraordinary 559 responses to our reader survey. The last survey we did in 1999 only received around 160 responses. I am pleased that so many readers care enough about PLN 's content to let us know what you think of it. Many readers also included very supportive and encouraging comments about how useful PLN is to them.
I was surprised by how many readers said they read every issue of PLN from cover-to-cover and read every article inside. In terms of specific topics, private prisons was a big favorite for prisoners housed in them as well as people in states that use them extensively. Virtually no readers said there were any topics they never read, while everyone had at least three topics they "always" read.
In terms of our coverage, a lot of prisoner readers would like to see PLN dramatically increase its coverage of criminal law. We don't plan to do this, beyond the columns we have had focusing on issues affecting pro se post conviction litigants, because there are at least six excellent magazines ( Punch and Jurists and the Criminal Law Reporter , for example) that already do a great job covering that topic. However, PLN is the only publication that covers civil rights litigation in detention facilities from a prisoner/plaintiff perspective. Other requests were for more coverage of state legislation, parole issues, prison news, unpublished opinions, verdicts and settlements and book reviews.
This is all fine and we will focus attention on these areas. But, we are still limited by our printed page limits in terms of how much we can cover. Especially when readers want us to expand our coverage, but not stop covering the other areas we already cover. PLN can expand to 40 pages per issue as soon as we can get an additional $500 per month to cover the additional printing and postage costs. If anyone would commit to covering those expenses for a one-year period (and that includes through advertising), PLN can expand immediately as we don't lack for material.
I would like to remind readers that we are always receptive to article submissions from readers as well as news clippings and information from other sources. If there is a particular story that is important to you or in your area and you think it would be of interest to PLN 's national readership, please contact me about the story.
One complaint noted by a number of readers was the coverage of "old" news and cases. We strive to be timely but we also think it is important to be accurate. The past year saw problems with both PLN 's office and some of our writers that led to stories running later than we would have liked. We have addressed those problems and hope to stay current.
However, as a monthly magazine with a 2-3 month lead-time, PLN will never have "up to the minute" news, and that is not our goal. Rather, we strive to provide timely information that is accurate, useful to our readers and has an angle or analysis that is missing from other media or has been ignored by the corporate media. In some cases, we do not receive information in a timely manner from other sources because other publications do not report it in a timely manner, or it takes a while to develop a story.
PLN 's columnists are all extremely popular with most readers. There seems to be some schizophrenia on the topic though. A number of readers said columnists are what they liked least about PLN , and then on the reverse side they said they always read the columnists! Most readers feel we have enough columnists for now.
Almost all of our readers liked the length and writing of PLN 's articles. A lot of prisoners said our law articles are too short, while most lawyers who responded said the law articles are too long. Until PLN can expand its page size we will be as concise as possible in our news and legal coverage. I was very pleased that almost no one found PLN to be too complex or too simple. We have always strived to make PLN useful and informative without being filled with legal or political jargon that makes it alienating or inaccessible to the people who need us, while at the same time not "dumbing down" our content like so many other media outlets have done.
A few readers, (4 in fact), said they would like to see PLN run fewer or no ads. The overwhelming majority, especially prisoners, want to see more ads for services to prisoners. Specifically, readers want to see ads for pen pal services, law books, products and services for prisoners and attorneys and legal assistance, preferably free or pro bono, in that order.
PLN will duly work on increasing advertisers in these categories. A bigger ad base will also allow us to expand our size and editorial content. If you know of businesses that deal with prisoners or who provide services useful to prisoners, either suggest to them that they advertise in PLN or send us their contact information and we will send them our advertising packet.
We are not aware of any free or pro bono legal services for criminal cases aside from the Innocence Project. There may be some state specific services but they typically have their own screening processes or only take court appointments. If readers know of such services, let us know. An upcoming issue of PLN will have an article on seeking counsel in civil cases. PLN will continue seeking competent, skilled attorneys to advertise in PLN .
Almost all survey respondents included their names so we could contact them if we had any questions and to address any concerns (usually subscription related) that they included in their surveys. 33 choose to remain anonymous, however, a few of those cases seem to be inadvertent. One prisoner left his or her name off their form despite asking us to get back to them about artwork. The author should write again if they want to follow up on it.
I personally read each and every survey form that was returned. I found the responses valuable and informative, and it will help us better address our reader's needs and concerns in the future. That said, don't wait until the next survey to let us know what you think of PLN . Enjoy this issue of PLN and please encourage others to subscribe.
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