This issue reports positive developments we have acheived in two lawsuits, one against the Washington Department of Corrections and the other against the federal Bureau of Prisons. Both cases have taken a lot of time and energy on the part of both PLN staff and our attorneys to win.
Unfortunately, we wind up spending an inordinate amount of time on censorship litigation just to ensure our readers can receive PLN and the books we distribute. When prisoners have issues or books from PLN censored please let us know as soon as possible as all too often prison and jail officials do not notify us of the censorship. We ask that prisoners use their grievance system and send PLN a copy of the documentation. Two things that greatly contribute to PLN's success in court: a well developed factual record and skilled attorneys who can use it.
This September marks the 35th anniversary of the rebellion at Attica in September, 1971 and subsequent massacre of 41 prisoners and prison employees by the New York state police and Department of Corrections. The Attica rebellion marks the beginning of the modern era of prison reform in the United States. One of the slogans of the era: Every prison is Attica, Attica is every prison, rings true today as it did then.
In some respects enormous progress has been made in the US prison system, the bulk of it as a result of judicial intervention. In many other respects things are as bad or worse today than they were then: overcrowding, inadequate medical care, brutality and a lack of accountability by staff remain unfixed. The biggest feature though is that today over 2.3 million people are imprisoned in US prisons and jails. In 1971 around 200,000 people were imprisoned in the United States. So while prison and jail conditions may have been deplorable and horrendous far fewer people were subjected to them.
One thing that has changed for the worse is the depoliticization of both US prisoners and the larger populace. In 1971 Attica was widely seen as the domestic face of carpet bombing, napalm, massacres and atrocities being carried out in South East Asia. Today the US openly runs concentration camps in Iraq and Guantanamo where political prisoners are being subjected to torture and treatment their American counterparts have been undergoing for several decades, yet this is done with little protest and no resistance.
As I have mentioned in previous editorials, PLN's website offers a free daily list serv of prison and jail news and court related information. A lot of prisoners have written to PLN's office asking to receive the free daily news. I will spell it out: to get it you need to have internet access or if you do not, have a friend or relative who can sign up for it, receive it and print it out and send it to you. PLN lacks the resources to do this for you.
PLN's Subscription Madness campaign continues until September 30! Help increase our circulation by purchasing a gift subscription for a friend, relative, legislator, opinion maker, or other person who would benefit from our news and analysis!
Some readers have asked why we publish old news on cases or stories that occurred more than a few months ago. The reality is that publishing a monthly magazine means that we have relatively long lead times, we are not a daily newspaper. The other thing is the reality of covering news emanating from prisons and jails: the walls serve to keep the news as well as the prisoners in. Alex Friedmann, PLN's associate editor, and I work long, hard hours ferreting out the news prison and jail officials would just as soon keep under wraps. In some cases they succeed in doing so, for a while. As a general rule I consider stories timely if they occurred within the last two years and would be of interest to a significant portion of PLNs national readership. Many other stories and articles that are of interest but untimely simply get posted onto PLNs online database where they can be accessed. Readers can help us bring people more timely news by continuing to send us news clippings and keeping us informed and posted on new developments, happenings, events, lawsuit wins and settlements, etc.
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