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From the Editor

Welcome to the last issue of PLN for 2013. As the year closes we can look back and see we have accomplished a great deal, including expanding the magazine to 64 pages, successfully urging the FCC to cap the cost of interstate prison phone calls, and prevailing in censorship and public records lawsuits. We also moved our office to Florida from Vermont and will soon be reopening a PLN office in Seattle, Washington.

All of this does not happen on its own; it depends on help and support from our readers and supporters like you. If you can afford to make a donation to PLN or the Human Rights Defense Center, PLN’s parent non-profit organization, please do so. Your support will help us advocate on behalf of prisoners, work to reform the criminal justice system, litigate to protect basic First Amendment rights and much more. What goes around, comes around. For those interested in the full depth and breadth of what PLN and HRDC do, please review our annual reports at: If you don’t have access to the Internet, send us 8 new first-class stamps and request our 2012 annual report, and we’ll mail you a copy.

This month’s cover story on the current state of the prison phone industry is the result of years of ongoing research into the rates charged by prisons and jails around the country and the commission kickbacks paid by prison phone companies. This data was critical in getting the FCC to cap interstate prison phone rates and, most importantly, PLN/HRDC is the only one that has it. No one else had ever bothered to get the actual state-by-state prison phone rates, in part because it is very time consuming.

We have one full-time staff person, David Ganim, who tracks down prison phone contracts and rate and commission data, and makes them publicly available on our prison phone justice website: When we ask people to help support the Prison Phone Justice Campaign, this is the research they are supporting – research that no one else is doing, and around which the Campaign revolves. In its order capping interstate prison phone rates, the FCC repeatedly referred to the data supplied by HRDC, which was instrumental in demonstrating the need for reform of the prison phone industry.

While the FCC’s recent order is a significant victory, we have a long way to go in the campaign to end exorbitant prison phone rates and stop the price gouging and exploitation of prisoners and their families by telecom companies and corrections officials. The key to the campaign has been having the actual data that shows the levels of greed with which these corporate and government predators operate. If you think stopping the exploitation of those who accept phone calls from prisoners – mostly their family members – is a worthy goal, then please make a donation to PLN/HRDC. Many thanks to David Ganim and former PLN phone justice coordinator Mel Motel for gathering the data presented in this issue’s cover story, and to John Dannenberg and PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann for organizing it in an intelligible format.

Our goals for 2014 include launching the Washington Prison Phone Justice Campaign in order to eliminate prison phone commission kickbacks and lower prison and jail phone rates in Washington State. This is our first statewide campaign to address the high cost of prison phone calls and end government-sanctioned prison phone monopolies.

Additionally, PLN will keep bringing our readers hard-hitting reporting that covers all aspects of the criminal justice system. We’ll continue to advocate nationally for saner criminal justice policies and practices that respect prisoners’ rights. We will also continue to challenge unconstitutional prison and jail policies that ban books and magazines, and are preparing to relaunch our websites with even more content and better search functionality.

Your contributions and financial support make all of this possible. Even if you can’t afford to donate, please encourage your friends and family members to do so on your behalf, or to purchase a PLN subscription or some of the books we distribute. Every little bit helps and no donation is too small or too big.

Enjoy the holidays, and best wishes for a new and better year to all of our readers and supporters from everyone at PLN/HRDC.

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