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From the Editor

February is traditionally the height of cold and flu season in the United States and this month’s cover story probably proves the axiom that if America catches cold, prisons catch pneumonia. Swine flu has been in the news quite a bit lately including its effects in prisons and jails. Which is interesting since, all things considered, it has killed relatively few people in the US and fewer still in detention facilities while other chronic illnesses, like diabetes, AIDS, hypertension, hepatitis and MRSA kill far more prisoners each year.

The lack of adequate health care in the bulk of the nation’s prisons and jails amply illustrate the complete lack of a preventive health care program in or out of prisons. Like many diseases, swine flu is preventable and conversely, without adequate safeguards it can and does spread quickly through a confined, overcrowded, malnourished population. Prisons and barracks have long been the incubators of modern disease and it is sad to see the political actions of government employees who put the public at risk of serious pandemics rather than simply treating all citizens who are sick or at heightened risk of illness.

While we are on the subject of disasters, the earthquake in Haiti has been a major disaster. So far the only good news to come out of Haiti is that the National Penitentiary in Port Au Prince collapsed in the earthquake and all 4,000 of the prisoners (it was built to hold 800) have fled. Like most countries in the Caribbean and South America, 90% of the prisoners were pretrial detainees awaiting trial. Prison reform via natural disaster is one way to look at it though I am sure that among the top priorities of the US invasion force will be rebuilding a prison system. If nothing else gets done that will. We will be reporting on details in an upcoming issue.

I would like to thank everyone who made a donation to this year’s annual PLN fundraiser. As of last week we have raised a little more than $15,000 in donations from individuals. Thank you very much for your support for PLN, it makes a big difference!

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