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PLN Sues Kansas Jail Over No-Publication Policy

On August 31, 2011, Prison Legal News filed a federal lawsuit against the Board of Commissioners for Shawnee County, Kansas and Richard Kline, Director of the Shawnee County Department of Corrections.

PLN’s suit alleges First Amendment violations due to a policy at the Shawnee County Jail that prohibits prisoners from receiving books and other publications sent to them through the mail. According to the Shawnee County Dept. of Corrections’ website, “No packages, newspapers, magazines, books, or other personal property is to be mailed to the facility.”

As a result of that policy, PLN’s monthly publication and books sent to prisoners at the jail were censored. PLN consequently filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, arguing the policy unconstitutionally infringes on its right under the First Amendment to send reading material to prisoners at the jail.

According to PLN’s complaint, “since at least November 2010, Plaintiff has sent copies of the monthly publication Prison Legal News, subscription renewal letters, informational brochures and soft-cover books such as Protecting Your Health and Safety to a number of individuals confined in the Shawnee County Jail.” All of the reading material was censored pursuant to the facility’s mail policy.

“The policy at the Shawnee County Jail that restricts prisoners from receiving any books or other publications is an egregious violation of the First Amendment,” said PLN editor Paul Wright. “One would think that law enforcement officials would be in the business of upholding the Constitution, not violating it on a daily basis by enforcing such ill-conceived policies.”

PLN is seeking a declaration that the jail’s no-publication policy violates its rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs.

PLN is represented by Doug Bonney, chief counsel and legal director for the ACLU Foundation of Kansas and Western Missouri, as well as Kansas City attorneys Fred Slough and James D. Jenkins, and Human Rights Defense Center chief counsel Lance Weber. The case is Prison Legal News v. Board of Commissioners of Shawnee County, U.S.D.C. (D. Kan.), Case No. 2:11-cv-02497-WEB-KGG.

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Related legal case

Prison Legal News v. Board of Commissioners of Shawnee County