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PLN Files Censorship Suit Against Fulton County Jail in Georgia

On October 22, 2007, Prison Legal News filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against Fulton County and Sheriff Myron Freeman, due to a Fulton County Jail policy that prohibits prisoners from receiving any books, magazines or newspapers other than religious publications.

The same policy had been previously challenged in federal court in 2002 and found unconstitutional. (See: Daker v. Barrett, USDC ND Ga., Case No. 1:00-cv-1065-RWS). However, the jail's reading materials policy was still applied to PLN and subscriptions sent to prisoners at the jail were rejected and destroyed with no notice to PLN.

"A federal judge has already told the Fulton County Jail that their absolute ban on publications like Prison Legal News is unconstitutional," stated Gerald Weber, former legal director of the Georgia ACLU and one of PLN's attorneys in the case. "That the policy is still being enforced, years after that ruling, speaks volumes about the need for better management at the jail."

"Given the close scrutiny that the Fulton County Jail has experienced due to federal court oversight, staff misconduct, shredding documents and the questionable use of Tasers by guards, one would think that jail officials would comply with prior court orders and respect the constitutional rights of prisoners in their custody and of publishers who wish to communicate with them," observed PLN Associate Editor Alex Friedmann.

PLN's lawsuit argues that the Fulton County Jail's blanket ban on non-religious reading materials sent to prisoners is presumptively unconstitutional, overbroad, and arbitrary and capricious. Further, the jail's failure to notify PLN when subscriptions are rejected constitutes a due process violation. The complaint notes that punitive damages may be available against Sheriff Freeman "due to his reckless and deliberate indifference to constitutional rights and his actual knowledge of continued enforcement of unconstitutional policies."

PLN is represented by Atlanta attorneys Brian Spears and Gerald
Weber. The filing of the suit was reported by the Atlanta Journal-
Constitution and United Press International. See: Prison Legal News v. Fulton County, U.S.D.C. ND Ga., Case No. 1:07-cv-2618.

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Related legal case

Prison Legal News v. Fulton County

The complaint and preliminary injunction in the case are available in the briefbank.