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From the Editor

When PLN first started publishing in 1990 there were several dozen prisoner rights publications being published around the country and in Canada. California alone had a half dozen. Today most of them have folded. Historically, the United States has had a penal press since the early 1800's. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is in a serious crisis today with only PLN and a few other publications reporting on news and happenings in the American gulag, the biggest prison system in world history.

While the American prison population has increased enormously in the past few years, the number of publications serving it have decreased almost as fast. The practical obstacles and the financial difficulties in serving the US prison population are tremendous. The single best way to ensure PLN's survival against this foreboding backdrop is to encourage others to subscribe, thus increasing PLN's circulation and impact, and making a financial donation, since subscription and advertising income alone do not cover all of PLN's operating costs. As one magazine says, subscribing to our principles isn't enough.

One of the obstacles facing PLN and other publications aimed at prisoners is the constant barrier of government censorship designed to prevent prisoners from reading those publications that both advocate on their behalf and contain information useful to them. For the past seven years PLN has had to devote an enormous amount of its limited resources to combating censorship. Nowhere has this been a bigger, more constant issue than in Washington state where prisoncrats have banned PLN on the basis of everything from the postage rate we were mailed at, to whether the prisoner had paid for the magazine from their prison trust account, to banning news clippings and magazine articles used as source material for articles.

On June 17, 2003, judge Lasnick in Seattle issued a permanent injunction enjoining the Washington DOC from censoring both third class non profit mail and catalogs, namely PLN's subscription and book ordering information. A fuller account of the ruling is in this issue of PLN. The case illustrates the barriers that face publications aimed at prisoners when prisoncrats adopt arbitrary rules specifically designed to prevent prisoners from learning about books and publications that serve their interests.

If you have not donated to PLN's summer fund-raiser yet, it isn't too late to do so. All donations help. Enjoy this issue of PLN and please encourage others to subscribe.

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