As the year comes to an end we will soon be sending out PLNs annual fundraiser letter. A PLN supporter who wishes to remain anonymous has pledged to match all donations to PLN, up to the amount of $15,000, dollar for dollar that are made between October 1, 2006 and January 31, 2007. As most readers probably know, the amount charged for subscriptions and advertising income, do not completely cover all of PLN's operating expenses. The difference between what magazine subscriptions and advertising income and what our costs actually are has always been made up by reader donations.
PLN just celebrated its 16th anniversary of monthly publishing. We are the only independent nationally circulated prisoner rights publication that is still publishing, as well as the longest lived at this point. In addition to bringing our readers the latest news and information on detention facilities we are also advocating on behalf of prisoners locally and nationally; standing up for the rights of prisoners and publishers to send literature to prisoners; seeking transparency and accountability in prisons and jails via public records laws and a lot more.
There are a lot of worthy causes out there but not only is no one else doing what PLN is doing, we're small enough that even a small donation goes a long way and makes a difference. We have no bloated administrative overhead, paid consultants or similar expenses. Every penny raised goes into the magazine and advocacy on behalf of prisoners, period. And that money goes a long way. In the past year alone PLN won a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Prisons seeking information on all money paid out in litigation by the BOP; submitted amicus briefs in several US supreme court cases on behalf of prisoner plaintiffs; successfully urged Yale University to divest itself of Corrections Corporation of America stock; confronted and questioned former US attorney general John Ashcroft about the racist application of the federal death penalty; has sought to stop the resumption of medical experiments on prisoners and a lot more. Thats in addition to publishing a monthly magazine, speaking at events, conferences and schools, litigation, etc. And we are doing this with 4 full-time employees! Nowhere else will your donation, large or small, generate as much bang for the buck. Needless to say, with more money we could do a lot more.
Between now and January we will report on the status of the fundraiser. Please make a donation to ensure we get the entire $15,000 matching grant.
Overall I am very happy being PLNs editor and there is nothing else I would rather be doing than this. However, the saddest thing about being PLNs editor and also the bad thing about being around this long, is that inevitably our friends and supporters die. It is with great sadness that I report that on August 8, 2006, Thomas Sellman, 47, died in Seattle, Wash.
Thomas was originally a cameraman in film and television. Among the movies he helped film was a documentary on the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola and the Field of Dreams. Shortly after moving to Seattle he became active in the Prison Awareness Project, a volunteer group at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, Wash., which is where I first met him. Thomas had a keen sensitivity and empathy for the plight and suffering of others.
In 1999 he was arrested while handing out leaflets at demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle and spent two days in jail as a result. He was later one of the named plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU which challenged the assorted restrictions on free speech imposed on WTO protestors. See: Hankin v. City of Seattle, 444 F.3d 555 (9th Cir. 2005).
It was his arrest and two days in jail for exercising his right to free speech that led Thomas to go to law school. He graduated from the University of Washington law school in 2003. While he was attending law school Thomas worked as a work study student in PLNs Seattle office where he did everything from lay out for the magazine to research, fact checking and answering the phone. Not only was Thomas a tireless advocate for the rights of prisoners but he was always friendly, well spoken, cheerful and thoughtful. Upon graduating from law school Thomas was working on both prisoner rights and criminal defense cases.
Everyone at PLN is sad and mournful at Thomass untimely passing. We have all lost both a friend and a colleague. He is survived by his parents Thomas and Zelda and his brother James. We extend our condolences to his family.
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