We need reader support to continue our work. From September 15, 2004, through January 15, 2005, we have a matching grant campaign where a PLN donor will match all donations and grants made to PLN, dollar for dollar if made by non prisoners and two dollars per dollar donated if made by prisoners. We are still very short of our goal; if you have not yet donated please do so now. You can also consider making monthly donations via credit card and prisoners are welcome to donate new, unused stamps or embossed envelopes. Don't wait until the last minute to donate! To receive the full $25,000 matching grant, readers must donate that amount.
In addition to publishing this magazine each month, PLN's other projects include investigative journalism to research and disseminate stories on prisons and jails that otherwise would not be published. This includes working with other publications and organizations to leverage PLN's resources and raise as much public awareness as possible on the topics. PLN is also a resource for both journalists and activists who desire more information on the criminal justice system. Each week PLN fields at least a half dozen calls from media groups. In addition to pointing journalists to story sources, I appear on one or two radio shows each week offering commentary and information on prison and jail issues and I am also quoted in news stories on a regular basis. This is part of PLN's public education mission.
PLN's censorship and public records litigation has, unfortunately, become an integral part of the work PLN does since prison officials around the country have attempted to censor PLN to prevent prisoners from reading it.
Through our book distribution we bring our readers, especially prisoners, a wide selection of self help books designed to educate prisoners to be able to assert their rights in a meaningful manner. We also offer books that give histories and radical critiques of the criminal justice system to allow a better understanding of the political struggle required to change current policies. PLN also distributes prisoner resource sheets and calendars to prisoners and we regularly donate extra copies of PLN to various book to prisoner programs around the country.
All of this requires staff time which in turn requires money and funding to make happen. We rely on reader support since subscription and advertising income only cover a portion of the money required to publish PLN and undertake the various activities we carry out each month. PLN requires an additional $50,000 for 2005 to meet our staffing needs. All donations, no matter how small, are helpful.
For our prisoner readers who have experienced censorship problems, please let us know if you experience any difficulty receiving PLN or the books we distribute. While mandated by the Supreme Court, prison officials rarely notify PLN when our books or magazine are censored. If you receive notice that any of our materials are censored, please send PLN a copy of the censorship notice and any appeals and responses you may receive from prison officials. This information is necessary for PLN to pursue administrative remedies and if that fails to litigate the matter in court.
At the end of October, 2004, I attended the National Lawyers Guild convention in Birmingham, Alabama. I am also the NLG's National Jailhouse Lawyer Co-Vice President. Birmingham is rich in the history of the civil rights struggle and has both a museum and outdoor park dedicated to that struggle. Having a civil rights museum implies that a struggle has come and gone to be relegated to museums. On the contrary, the civil rights struggle very much continues. The civil rights museum contains a replica of the jail cell where Martin Luther King spent the night in the early 1960s. It saddened me to realize that at that very moment Birmingham prisoners were jammed into cells under worse conditions than those that existed in 1963. But even more saddening was wondering how many people think that the abuses and issues of the early 1960's have disappeared or gone away. I would say the struggle remains except that the repression continues in new forms. If blacks couldn't vote then due to poll taxes, today hundreds of thousands of Alabamans are disenfranchised due to felony convictions. If police and KKK violence were the tools of social control used in the 1960's, today it is mass imprisonment.
The keynote speaker at the NLG convention was Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and head of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama whose organization represents indigent prisoners on death row in Alabama. Mr. Stevenson gave an inspiring and awesome speech on the issues and struggles that face activists everywhere and the reminder that injustice is alive and well, in Alabama and the rest of the United States. He also made the point, when discussing his work on behalf of condemned prisoners, that people should be judged as being more than the worst act they may have committed (or in the case of the innocent, that they have been accused of committing).
I was also on a workshop panel on prison litigation which focused on communication issues such as censorship and telephone access. The panel was hosted by Angus Love of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and Rhonda Brownstein of the Southern Poverty Law Center was also on it.
As the holiday season approaches, consider giving friends and family gift subscriptions to PLN or a book gift from PLN. Enjoy this issue of PLN and please encourage others to subscribe.
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