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From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This issue marks the 16th anniversary of the founding of Prison Legal News. Since PLNs first issue was published on May 1, 1990 we have now published 192 issues. This is a significant accomplishment since most magazines in general measure their existence in the single digits of issues published. At this point PLN is the longest lived independent magazine founded by prisoners in US history. No small accomplishment in a country with hundreds of years of prison history and a penal press since at least 1800.

PLN has steadily grown, from 10 hand typed, photocopied pages to our current size of 48 pages. In addition, our website provides a vast amount of information with all PLN back issues, court cases and much more on it. It is the largest and best source of information on all things prison and jail related on the internet.

We are continuously striving to improve PLNs coverage, service and utility to our readers. This summer we plan to expand our book selection and add more titles to the books we offer our readers. I am also very excited to announce that a new PLN anthology on the political economy of mass imprisonment is forthcoming, co-edited by myself and Seattle attorney Tara Herivel. We co-edited Prison Nation: The Warehousing of Americas Poor (Routledge, 2003) which is available from PLN. We still have not settled on a title but I will keep readers apprised of its progress as we go.

Building PLNs subscription base is one of our priorities since it will ensure PLNs survival into the future. Our Subscription Madness campaign lets current readers and supporters purchase subscriptions for other, new subscribers. It costs us about 60 cents to mail out a sample copy of PLN. Almost two dollars if we have to send it first class. Subscription Madness helps us pass along the savings to readers as we dont have to send out multiple samples. If you know someone who is interested in the criminal justice system, and this includes policy makers, legislators, judges, journalists and others, consider buying them a subscription to PLN. We currently have around 4,700 subscribers and would like to double that by our next anniversary issue.

This issue of PLN has feature articles on abuse and corruption in prisons in very different parts of the world, places we cover on a fairly regular basis. One is the Rikers Island Jail in New York City, the other is Abu Ghraib in occupied Iraq. Abu Ghraib is now synonymous around the world with abuse and torture. Rikers Island is not since jail officials dont allow staff to bring cameras into the facility. For many decades jails across the United States, especially in major cities, have been especially atrocious pits of overcrowding, medical neglect, brutality and abuse. PLN covers jail issues on a regular basis. However, these isolated stories fail to give the whole picture. Each beating, suicide, medical neglect death, etc., needs to be seen as part of a bigger picture and not an isolated incident.

The next few months will see stories in PLN about both jails around the US (the January, 2006 issue of PLNs cover story was on jails in Texas) and the civil commitment of sex offenders around the country. Both are issues that get relatively little attention. We hope to shed some light on both.
On PLNs 16th anniversary I would like to thank all those who have helped PLN over the past 16 years and who have stuck with us when times have been tough. At this point, you are all too numerous to name but you know who you are. Without everyones support PLN would have ceased to exist long ago, like most publications in general and prisoner magazines in particular. We have beaten those long odds thanks to the dedication and support of our volunteers, staff members, supporters and readers. At PLN we are all looking forward to many more years of publishing.

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