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Fifth Circuit Upholds Censorship of Louisiana Prison-Oriented Newsletter

The publisher of the newsletter for a Louisiana organization advocating for prisoners and a Louisiana state prisoner filed a federal civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after Louisiana prison system officials refused to distribute a mass mailing of 500 copies of the July 1977 issue of the newsletter, "Inside," mailed to prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

The warden claimed the newsletter was an "immediate threat to the security of the institution" because its lead article, "Protest at Angola," approved of a work stoppage at Angola which had taken place two months earlier. Furthermore, the prison had failed to notify individual potential recipients of the newsletter of the censorship. The district court upheld the regulation allowing the censorship and the censorship as constitutionally permitted. It also held that individual notification did not justify relief because prison officials had met with the publisher multiple times.

The publisher appealed. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision in all aspects. See: Vodicka v. Phelps, 634 F.2d 569 (5th Cir. 1980).

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Related legal case

Vodicka v. Phelps