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From the Editor

The cover story in this month’s issue is written by Elizabeth Alexander. Elizabeth is the former director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project and one of the top prisoner rights litigators in the United States. I first became aware of Elizabeth in the late 1980s, I had been in prison for a few years and was involved in my first prison conditions case, enforcing an overcrowding consent decree at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, Washington. I was a subscriber to the NPP Journal and an avid student on everything I could read and learn about prisoner rights. I corresponded with Elizabeth off and on over the next decade and a half and finally met her and the other wonderful attorneys at the NPP after my release from prison in 2003.

The March, 2008, issue of PLN had an extensive interview with Elizabeth and details her legal career where she has exclusively represented prisoners since 1981. As her article amply illustrates, she brings a compassion and legal acumen to the field that is both noteworthy and admirable. Over the course of almost three decades of prisoner rights litigation Elizabeth has helped ensure better standards of living and decency for literally millions of prisoners. She has also served as a leader, mentor and role model for many lawyers over that same time period who have worked at the NPP, worked with her and otherwise been inspired to represent prisoners in litigation.

It was with shock, outrage and surprise that ACLU executive director Anthony Romero fired Elizabeth from her job as Executive Director of the NPP effective December 2009. Moreso when one considers the excellent results she has obtained for her clients and the sterling leadership and inspiration she has provided to her employees and the legal community over the years. Protests and appeals by a number of prisoner rights advocates that the ACLU reconsider this decision were ignored.

Elizabeth’s firing from the NPP is a grave loss to the ACLU, who is a much poorer organization with her departure, and more seriously to the hundreds of thousands of prisoners around who are represented by the NPP. The reality is that the NPP is, outside of a few states, the only organization that represents prisoners in conditions of confinement class action suits. As we go to print a new executive director has not yet been named for the NPP.

This year marks PLN’s 20th anniversary of publishing and this is the first time we have ever commented on another organization’s personnel or hiring or firing decisions.

If you have not yet donated to PLN’s annual fundraiser please do so now. Next month I will report the total we have raised to date. Our goal has been to close a $60,000 budget gap as we start the new year.

This year marks PLN’s 20th anniversary. We started publishing in May, 1990. In addition to marking that milestone PLN is also seeking an executive director. Ideal candidates should have at least five years of non profit management experience and either live in Seattle or be willing to relocate there. I can be e mailed at for the full job description.

Enjoy this issue of PLN and please encourage others to subscribe.

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