Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Wisconsin Prison Publication Ban Policy Disregards First Amendment Right To Newspaper Access

Wisconsin State prisoner William West brought 42 U.S.C. $ 1983 action against the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF) and various guards after they refused him access to prepaid newspapers and discarded some issues in the trash. The action was dismissed in 2007.

West prepaid a subscription to USA Today while he was incarcerated in the Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution in 2002. He was moved to the WSPF a month later where Procedure Number 300, abolished in 2005, precluded his access to newspapers due to behavioral modification goals. A couple of issues were discarded. West brought an equal protection claim because other prisoners' newspapers were saved for them, and a First Amendment claim for the denial.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin dismissed the First Amendment claim as moot since he was transferred to a facility that allowed him access to the newspaper and because the denial policy was abolished prior to his filing the suit. The equal protection claim against the guards was dismissed for qualified immunity. The court noted it's disappointment that the newspaper denial was based "solely on an interest in behavior modification to justify a restriction" which "has no relationship to the negative behavior being targeted." The court further noted "It is difficult to think of many situations more antithetical to the First Amendment than forcing ignorance on a segment of the population." See: West v. Frank. 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47986 (W.D. Wis.)

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

West v. Frank