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From the Editor

The cover story of this month’s issue of Prison Legal News is no surprise to our readers. The pay-to-stay luxury jails in Southern California first came to my attention over a year ago when a reporter from the Los Angeles Times called to ask me for a comment on the practice. I duly pointed out the inherently unequal and discriminatory practice of this obvious two-tiered jail system and he commented “You know, you’re the only person I can find to go on record and say something bad about these pay-to-stay jails. Not even the ACLU will criticize it.” Most likely because when they or their loved ones face a jail sentence they would much rather have the option of doing time in a cushy luxury jail than the cesspool of violent corruption and disease known as the Los Angeles County jail. Even a rapper like Dr. Dre who has made his millions “keepin’ it real” knows it’s far better to write about jail from afar than doing hard time in one.

This very two-tier system of injustice is one of the factors that make reform all the harder. When everyone, rich and poor alike, are subject to the same penalties and the same miserable conditions of confinement it helps ensures that neither gets too repugnant to basic standards of decency. But when only the poor get paramilitary policing, mandatory minimums and hard time the result is the current state of affairs where anti “crime” and anti-prisoner legislation roars along unopposed by anyone in a position of power to effect change because they know that neither they nor their families or social circles of friends will be subject to them. An interesting trend that proves this point is the current push to lessen the penalties for those defendants convicted of possessing child pornography. In congressional hearings and in the media judges and prosecutors are urging the repeal of harsh sentences for possession of child pornography. The main issue seems to be simply that a large number of the defendants charged in federal court with possessing child pornography are middle and upper class white men. Presumably if they were mostly poor black or Latino men the concern would not be there.

We have finished our move to Vermont and I would like to thank everyone who has helped with that transition. Adam Cook is our staff attorney and he works in our Vermont office primarily on PLN censorship cases but also the occasional catastrophic injury case as well. Mail sent to our Seattle address is forwarded to us weekly but please use the Vermont address for a speedier response. We have gotten behind in our publishing schedule due to the move but we hope to be back on schedule by the end of the summer. Please excuse the delays but we don’t plan to move again anytime soon.

I would like to thank readers who continue to send us news about the cases they win and settle. This is very important and one of the favorite news items that we report as far as readers are concerned. If you win a case please send us the last complaint in the case and the verdict or settlement and release, and we will report it in an upcoming issue of PLN.

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

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