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From the Editor

Tropical storm Irene caused serious damage in Vermont on August 27 and 28, including in Brattleboro where our offices are located. We received a lot of phone calls, e-mails and inquiries asking if we were okay, and the good news is that our office is safe and sound and none the worse for wear, and only one of our staff was seriously affected by the storm. Dennis, our office manager, lost his tool shed and firewood due to flooding but the flood waters stopped an inch from his door. Thanks to everyone who was concerned about us.

This month’s cover story regarding the private prison industry is the story the mainstream media should be covering but isn’t. As states like Ohio, Arizona and Florida seek to privatize portions of their prison systems as part of the attack on organized labor (government employees are the last bastion of unionized workers left in the U.S.), little attention is being paid to the fact that the private prison industry is merely another mechanism to transfer public tax dollars into private hands.

By now subscribers should have received their annual fundraiser mailing from Prison Legal News, as it was mailed a few weeks before this issue of PLN. In addition to publishing the magazine, distributing books and advocating on behalf of prisoners, PLN often has to go to court to vindicate its free speech rights and ensure prisoners can receive our written materials. We filed five censorship suits around the country in August and September alone. While advertising, subscription and book sales make up most of our income, they do not cover all of our expenses. We rely on grants and donations from you, our readers, to make it through the year. We also have unanticipated one-time expenses that come up and need to be met.

Until the floods in August we had mistakenly thought that Vermont was not prone to regional disasters. While we back-up our data, we do not do so out of the region which can lead to problems. During Hurricane Katrina many businesses and organizations had their data backed-up off-site, across town. So while their computers were under 10 feet of water, their back-ups were under 20 feet. We emerged unscathed from the recent flooding (some parts of downtown Brattleboro were under 10 feet of water), and are now taking steps to immediately back-up our data out-of-state, which is an unforeseen expense of $4,000.

We do not bombard our readers with fundraisers; we do this once a year. If you can afford to make a donation, please do so. Even if you can’t, please encourage others to donate, subscribe and purchase books from us. Every little bit helps. We are also doing a sample mailing of this issue of PLN. If you have received this copy of PLN and do not know if you are a subscriber, look at the label on the magazine. If there is a subscriber number and expiration date above your name and address, you are a subscriber. If not, this is a sample copy and you need to subscribe if you wish to continue receiving the magazine.

After we ran a photo of Nellie, our office mascot, a 12-year-old golden retriever, in our July issue, she received a number of donations from readers for doggy treats. Nellie was very happy with the treats and is coming to work reinvigorated to fight for human rights with all of her doggy might, and would like to thank everyone who donated on her behalf.
With the holidays fast approaching, if you don’t know what to get your friends or loved ones consider a PLN subscription or a book from our book store. The Habeas Corpus Citebook and Prisoners’ Self-Help Litigation Manual are must-haves for the library of any jailhouse lawyer.

This issue of PLN includes the first column by Lance Weber, Chief Counsel for the Human Rights Defense Center, the non-profit parent organization that publishes PLN. Lance has been with us for a year now and it has been a pretty non-stop year for him. It has been a pleasure working with Lance and he has quickly been getting up to speed on the various censorship and public records challenges that we face, as well as handling select catastrophic injury cases for individual prisoners.

The saddest part of being the editor of PLN is noting the passing of our friends and allies, and the downside of publishing for 21 years is that we have had more of these moments than I would like. On September 10, 2011, William “Lefty” Gilday, 82, a long-time class war political prisoner, died in prison in Massachusetts. Lefty was one of PLN’s earliest subscribers and a long-time activist and jailhouse lawyer. He was politicized while in prison in the 1960s while serving time for armed robbery. Upon his release he attended college and was active in the student movements of the time, and in 1970 was involved in a bank robbery to raise funds for the anti-Viet Nam struggle, during which a policeman was killed. He had five other co-defendants: Susan Saxe, Katherine Power, Stanley Bond, Robert Valeri and Michael Fleischer. Bond died in prison in 1972 while Valeri and Fleischer testified against the others, Saxe served seven years in prison and Power did six years after more than two decades as a fugitive.

PLN reported on a number of successful cases filed by Lefty, and I corresponded with him over the years. Despite his sentence of death-by-incarceration, he was always cheerful and resolute in the struggle for justice and human rights. Lefty will be missed by his many friends and supporters.

On that sad note, I hope you enjoy this issue of PLN and either subscribe yourself if this is your first encounter with PLN, or encourage others to subscribe if you are already a subscriber.

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