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From the Editor

This issue’s cover story on the rights and treatment of gay and lesbian prisoners stems from the dearth of such coverage everywhere else. In February of this year I was a speaker on a panel in Manhattan on the rights of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender prisoners. A few months before this I had received a phone call from a man whose boyfriend is in prison in Georgia. They had had their visit terminated because they held hands during the visit. When they protested and pointed out that heterosexual couples were allowed to hold hands during visits, the prison captain told them they were being disruptive and when asked what gay couples were supposed to do, the captain responded that there were no gay prisoners in Georgia except for his boyfriend. Since Georgia has over 50,000 prisoners I find that difficult to believe. What I find not so difficult to believe though is the dearth of research, articles and litigation surrounding the rights of gay and lesbian prisoners.

To the extent there is litigation, research and media coverage on GLBT prisoners, it tends to focus on transsexual prisoners. A quick Lexis search on the subject disclosed that in the past 5 years about 80% of all articles, law reviews and research papers on the topic of GLBT prisoners focused exclusively on transsexual prisoners. As the rights of GLBT people outside prison gains more attention and traction it is odd that the rights of GLBT prisoners have gained less. I think this may be due more to the GLBT movement outside prison than any other reason. As Mr. Wolfe notes in his article, 30 years ago, gay rights was synonymous with prisoner rights. That is no longer the case. Publishers of GLBT magazines like The Advocate and Out will not even stand up for the right of GLBT prisoners to receive their publications, which is a far cry from the original gay press of the 1970s which long championed the rights of all prisoners in general and GLBT ones in particular.

With the Fall comes PLN’s annual fundraiser. As you know, the cost of subscriptions does not cover the operating expenses of publishing PLN. We rely on our annual end of the year fundraiser to raise the additional funds we need to continue operating. Once again an anonymous PLN donor will match all donations up to and including $15,000, dollar for dollar from non-prisoners and $2 for every $1 donated if the donation is from or on behalf of a prisoner. Your donations help support PLN’s incisive and in-depth media coverage of criminal justice issues the corporate media cannot, or will not, cover. It ensures our continued advocacy on behalf of prisoners and their family members around the country and also helps ensure we can continue fighting, and winning, our censorship battles to ensure prisoners can receive PLN and other publications.

The last price increase for PLN subscribers was almost eight years ago in 2001. Within the next few months we will be raising our subscription rates. Despite our best efforts to keep rates down, after 8 years of postage and printing increases, we need to raise rates. To lock in the current rates, subscribe for as long as you want. The good news for subscribers is we will be expanding in size, to 56 pages, to bring readers more news and information you can use.

This year I am the inaugural recipient of the National Lawyers Guild Arthur Kinoy Award which I will be accepting at the NLG national convention in Detroit on October 18, 2008. I was the NLG’s Jailhouse Lawyer Co-Vice President from 1995 until May of this year when I resigned. The other NLG members receiving awards for their work on behalf of prisoners are Ian Head, who is receiving the Legal Worker of the Year award. For years Ian distributed the NLG’s Jailhouse Lawyers Manual to prisoners around the country. The recipients of the Law for the People Award goes to Deborah Labelle, Richard Soble, Patricia Streeter, Molly Reno, Michael Pitt, Peggy Goldberg Pitt, Cary McGehee, Ronald Reosti, and Ralph Sirlin, the lawyers who for over 15 years have represented women prisoners in Michigan who were raped by prison guards and who earlier this year won a $15 million verdict for their clients.

Over the years PLN has been represented by many NLG lawyers, whom we would like to thank for their commitment to prisoner rights. The NLG graciously donated a page to PLN in the dinner journal distributed at the event. We are printing it in this issue of PLN. I am grateful and honored by the Kinoy award; I and PLN have had a lot of help along the way and would like to thank all those who have made it possible.

Enjoy this issue of PLN and please make a donation to support our work.

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