Sometimes I am asked what PLN does, besides publish a magazine. The answer is quite a lot and we are going to try to do a better job of letting people know about it.
In addition to publishing PLN we also have a top notch website that is the number one source of information on all things related to detention facility news and litigation. All 190 PLN back issues are on line in a searchable database and the full text of all court decisions we have reported is also online. Users can search on many different criteria, including subject, location, case name, title, case outcome, and much more. We also have a brief bank with pleadings, settlements and similar documents and a publications section that has a wide variety of government reports, advocacy manuals and much more on it. Everything is designed so it can be easily printed and mailed to prisoners who do not have access to the internet.
PLN's website has the largest collection, over 1,000 at last count, of prison and jail verdicts and settlements. When trying to value a case before filing it or determine a reasonable value for settlement purposes, no one else has this information in such an easily accessible format. We also have a free list serv that every day has news about prison and jail litigation, court rulings and more. Prisoners should let their friends and relatives outside prison know about this so they can sign up for it at www.prisonlegalnews.org.
Public advocacy is also an important part of the work that PLN does. In January I spoke to college students at Middlebury College in Vermont about the realities of the US criminal justice system. In March I gave a presentation on the federal death penalty at the Vermont Law School with Lennox Hinds, the New York civil rights attorney and law professor, and Robert Bryan, attorney for PLN columnist Mumia Abu Jamal. In late March Alex Friedman, PLN's associate editor, Sam Phillips, one of our office assistants, and I attended a rally at Yale Law School where the Graduate Student Employees Organization had organized a demonstration seeking divestment of Yale funds from Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Alex, one of the leading experts on the private prison industry, was one of the featured speakers at the rally.
As the article in this issue of PLN mentions, Alex attended a symposium on the death penalty where he was able to question former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft on the application of the federal death penalty. Alex has also helped support union members and prisoner rights advocates seeking to prevent the expansion and privatization of the Shelby County jail in Memphis, Tennessee, by CCA. Alex also spoke against felon disenfranchisement at a meeting in Nashville, on Valentine's day.
And that is just what we've done in the last few months, plus talking to journalists, lawyers representing prisoners and much more.
Among the things we would like to do in the coming year, as we prepare to celebrate our 16th anniversary of publishing, is to increase our circulation. To that end we are sending free sample copies of PLN to potential subscribers around the country. Readers can do their part by encouraging people they know to subscribe to PLN.
This summer we will be revamping and expanding the list of books that PLN sells and distributes and we would appreciate hearing from you on both general types of books readers would like to see PLN distribute and specific titles (i.e., books readers have found especially helpful, a good value for the money, etc.)
As always, we rely on donations from our readers, above and beyond the cost of subscriptions, to keep doing our work. If you can afford a donation please make one. Every penny goes towards furthering PLN's advocacy on behalf of prisoners and detainees. Enjoy this issue of PLN and please encourage others to subscribe.
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