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From the Editor

With the end of the year we can look back at our accomplishments in the past year as well as our goals for the coming year. In 2009 PLN accomplished quite a bit. We published our first book, the Prisoners Guerrilla Handbook Guide to Correspondence Courses in the US and Canada; we added a staff attorney position; we ended the ban on publications by the Fulton County jail in Atlanta, Georgia; we ended the Massachusetts DOC policy of requiring books to be sent from “approved vendors”; we successfully expanded the size of the magazine from 48 to 56 pages; we unsealed a confidential settlement between Corrections Corporation of America and its prison employees it had bilked out of overtime pay; we changed the name of our parent non-profit from Prison Legal News to the Human Rights Defense Center and much more.

By now all readers should have received PLN’s annual fundraising appeal. We desperately need your support, above and beyond the cost of an annual subscription to continue doing the work we do on behalf of the human rights of the imprisoned in the US besides publishing the magazine Prison Legal News. This includes our cutting edge anti- censorship and government transparency litigation; book publishing and advocacy and media work. PLN is firmly established as the go-to source for media doing research or background stories on the prison industry. When Michael Moore was researching his latest movie Capitalism: a Love Story, he turned to PLN for information about the private prison industry. Alex Friedmann, PLN and I are duly thanked in the closing credits of the film. Any donations you can make will go a long way towards supporting our work. We don’t have a bloated staff, high-paid consultants or expensive office space. Your money goes towards the work we do.

The saddest duties I have as editor of PLN is noting the passing of our friends and allies. In October two very different champions for the rights of prisoners died. In Florida Bobby Posey, a prisoner and the editor and founder of Florida Prison Legal Perspectives, died on October 22 after being diagnosed with lung cancer in June of this year after unsuccessfully seeking medical treatment for the prior two years. I never met Bobby in person. We corresponded on a regular basis since at least 1993 or 1994. I always looked forward to each issue of FPLP because of its extensive coverage of the Florida DOC. Bobby’s tireless advocacy on behalf of prisoners was an inspiration. Showing the quality of mercy in this country, Bobby was denied a medical parole even after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and being given less than six months to live (he actually lived for four). Florida governor Charlie Crist is running for the office of US senator on the blood of men like Bobby. Everyone at PLN wishes Bobby’s wife of many years Teresa our best and I would like to dedicate this issue of PLN to the memory of Bobby Posey.

Florida Prison Legal Perspectives will no longer be publishing with Bobby’s death. Which is a serious loss to Florida prisoners in particular. We will increase our coverage of Florida litigation as a result of this. We are also seeking a com-plete set of the copies of FPLP to scan and post on our website. If anyone has a complete, CLEAN (as in not marked up, damaged or otherwise unreadable) set of FPLPs please contact me so we can make arrangements to receive them and put them into electronic format. Otherwise there is a real possibility that there will be no centralized repository of FPLPs. Alas, no electronic copies of FPLP exist and the set that I have is incomplete.

Judge William Wayne Justice, a federal district court judge in Texas, died on October 13th. His passing received much more attention than did Bobby’s. Judge Justice is best known among prisoners as the judge who brought the Texas prison system into the 19th century by holding vast sections of the Texas prison system to be unconstitutional in the case of Ruiz v. Estelle. He also desegregated the Texas school system among many other accomplishments in his 41 years on the federal bench. I had the privilege of meeting Judge Justice at a conference in Austin in 2006. I am always interested in why people do the things we do. I asked Judge Justice why he had ruled in favor of prisoners in Ruiz. His simple answer was “Since I was a little boy my daddy told me to always do the right thing and that’s what I’ve tried to do my whole life. It was just the right thing to do.” He also mentioned he had attended the funeral of David Ruiz, the plaintiff in Ruiz v. Estelle. At one point Judge Justice was the most reviled judge in Texas if not the South and took his constitutional duties as a judge seriously. He was not an outcome-oriented jurist. The American judiciary is a poorer place with his passing.

On those happy notes, we would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season and best wishes for a new year of greater struggle.

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