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Prisoner Awarded $75 after Magazine Withheld

On February 8, 2001, the Honorable Sally Shushan, U.S. Magistrate Judge, awarded a prisoner $75 in compensatory damages after jail officials refused to provide the prisoner with a magazine.

While incarcerated at the St. John Correctional Center in Louisiana, Leo Schwartz was denied access to his "Prisoner Self-Help Manual," a book written by PLN staff attorney Dan Manville. In addition, jail officials refused to deliver a copy of "Free American," a "right" leaning magazine Schwartz subscribed to.

Schwartz sued jail officials alleging that the withholding of his "Prisoner Self-Help Manual" and "Free American" magazine violated his First Amendment rights. The court rejected Schwartz's claim surrounding the "Self-Help Manual,” holding that because Schwartz was at all times represented by counsel during his criminal case, and because he failed to show that not having access to the book prejudiced him in any way, there was no First Amendment violation.

The court reached a different conclusion regarding jail officials' refusal to provide Schwartz with the magazine, though. "The prison presented no evidence that . . . the magazine…be withheld for valid reasons of insuring the safety of prisoners and employees," the court wrote. Accordingly, the court awarded Schwartz $75 in compensatory damages for being denied the magazine.
See: Schwartz v. Jones, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1446 (E.D. La. 2001)

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Related legal case

Schwartz v. Jones