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From the Editor

I would like to thank everyone who donated to our end-of-year fundraiser. It was very successful, and I am pleased to announce that we have added a second staff attorney to join Lance Weber, our chief counsel, as part of our legal team. Alissa Hull is a recent law school graduate who has chaired the National Lawyers Guild’s Prison Law Project and helped edit the NLG’s Jailhouse Lawyers’ Handbook.

Prison Legal News is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center. We were able to start our litigation project in 2009 thanks to the generosity of an individual donor. The basis for creating an in-house attorney position was to be better able to confront and challenge the censorship of our publication and the books we distribute, and to handle litigation related to our public records requests.

As reported in this issue of PLN, we have won the largest legal victory against prison and jail censorship in American history, yet we still continue to be censored. As this issue of PLN goes to press we are currently litigating statewide bans of PLN by the New York and Florida state prison systems, as well as by numerous jails around the country. The workload increased to the point where we needed reinforcements.

We are very glad that Alissa has joined us at the Human Rights Defense Center and will be able to help us vigorously defend the rights of prisoners to receive and read PLN and other publications. It was due to everyone who donated to our fundraiser that we were able to hire her as our second staff attorney.

For the past 30 years or so, proponents of the private prison industry have claimed that private, for-profit prisons are cheaper to operate than government facilities. That may well be true, even though insufficient evidence has been presented to support the claim, but regardless, the taxpayers derive no benefit. As this issue’s cover story demonstrates, prison privatization is largely determined by greed, lobbying, political pay-offs and corruption. The myth of the “free market” no more exists with respect to private prisons than it does with any other aspect of the American corporatist economy.

As Florida seems poised to privatize an unprecedented number of its prisons, it is worth noting that there has been little public discourse and few legislative hearings on the topic.
As holds true with most of the most egregious laws affecting prisoners, such as the Prison Litigation Reform Act and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, the privatization effort is being pushed through with budget riders, fast-tracked legislation and backroom deals. This amply illustrates the lack of democratic process in what is basically a huge giveaway of taxpayer money to huge corporations, which duly kick back campaign contributions to their political lackeys in the legislative and executive branches of government. We will report future developments in Florida as they occur.

Each year we spend a fair amount of money doing sample mailings to potential subscribers to encourage them to subscribe to PLN. This is expensive but is one of the few ways we have of letting prisoners know we exist and to build our subscriber base. Other ways are through gift subscriptions and PLN readers encouraging other people to subscribe, as well as telling people – especially prisoners conscious about their civil rights – about PLN.

We currently have approximately 7,000 subscribers. Our goal is to have at least 10,000. Boosting our circulation will help keep our costs down, as our per-issue costs decrease as the number of copies we print and mail increases. Although we strive to reduce our expenses, and can note that in almost 22 years of publishing the cost of a one-year prisoner subscription to PLN has gone from $10 to $30 while we simultaneously increased the size of the magazine from 10 to 56 pages, we are faced with continuously rising printing and postage costs. If other people read your copy of PLN, encourage them to order their own subscription if they can afford to do so.

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

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