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What HRDC and Prison Legal News Accomplished in 2012!

Last January, the Center for Civic Media at MIT declared the work of Prison Legal News and PLN editor Paul Wright to be "The Front Line of the US Censorship Battle."


Interestingly, CCM provided the perfect prelude to another year of successful litigation, publication, coalition building and advocacy by the Human Rights Defense Center. Here is just some of what HRDC and PLN did in 2012:

* Helped forge a national coalition (the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice) to propel the Wright Petition for lower interstate prison phone rates to the front door of the FCC; the Petition languished for almost a decade until this year, when, thanks to the efforts of the campaign, the FCC announced it would circulate a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – a major step forward to taking action on the Petition.

* Won the largest-ever award in a jail First Amendment censorship suit against the Hill-Finklea Detention Center in Moncks’ Corner, SC. With the help of the ACLU, PLN recovered a total of nearly $600,000 in damages and attorney fees.

* Saw Alex Friedmann, PLN managing editor, organize a petition and rally for his CCA shareholder meeting to demand that the company disclose its efforts to curb rape and sexual abuse in all of its for-profit facilities.

* Settled litigation against New York state’s Department of Corrections, resulting in a complete reversal on censorship of PLN plus $75,000 in damages. All NY state prisoners can now receive Prison Legal News.

* Joined with 33 other criminal justice and civil rights groups to urge U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee to reintroduce the Private Prison Information Act, which would require private prison companies that house federal prisoners to comply with the Freedom of Information Act to the same extent as government-run prisons.

Additionally, PLN featured cover stories from nationally-recognized journalists and criminal justice advocates such as Peter Wagner, James Forman, Tracy Velazquez and James Ridgeway, and:

* Launched social media outlets to expand PLN’s content to new audiences.

* Settled our censorship suit with Sacramento County, CA for $300,000 and policy changes to ensure the jail will stop engaging in unconstitutional mail censorship.

* Settled with the Orleans Parish Jail regarding that facility’s unconstitutional mail policies, resulting in the jail ending its unjust censorship practices.

* Hired two more full-time office employees plus a staff attorney.

* Was the impetus to changing several Oregon and Arizona county jail postcard policies to allow prisoners to send and receive letters, books and other publications.

We know there are many worthy causes and organizations for those making end-of-the-year donations. We hope you will consider HRDC and Prison Legal News to be worthy causes and organizations, too. We manage to do a great deal with few resources ... just imagine what we could do with more resources!

To donate to HRDC/PLN, please visit:

Many thanks, and happy holidays!