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From the Editor

I would like to thank everyone who has donated to the Human Rights Defense Center/Prison Legal News annual fundraiser. As of mid-January 2013 we had raised a little over $29,000 of our $60,000 goal to continue the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, and still need more support to be able to carry it through the rest of the year. We are making significant progress with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which on January 22, 2013 published a formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on interstate prison phone rates.

Our hard-fought efforts are paying off and we need your financial support to continue to keep the campaign going. The FCC has asked specific questions concerning the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and in the Phone Justice ad on page 37 we list information that you can submit to the FCC. One factor in motivating the FCC to act on this issue, after sitting on it for almost a decade, has been letters and submissions from prisoners and their families plus concerted actions by the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice.

If you can make a tax-deductible donation to support the campaign, please do so. Our opponents in this struggle are the powerful telecom industry and prison systems and jails that profiteer off the backs of prisoners and their families. To follow the campaign online, go to

As this issue of PLN goes to press we are involved in two historic events. The first is a long-running lawsuit called Judd v. AT&T, which was scheduled to go to trial in King County Superior Court in Washington on January 22, 2013 over damages to be awarded due to the non-disclosure of the cost of phone calls from Washington prisoners between 1996 and 2000. On the morning of trial, after 13 years of litigation, defendant AT&T settled the case for $45 million to be paid to plaintiff class members who accepted collect calls from prisoners during the relevant time period.

To date this is the only lawsuit involving prison phone calls to make it past the dismissal stage, much less result in a settlement. We will report the results in an upcoming issue of PLN. I had investigated the facts underlying the complaint in this case while I was incarcerated in the mid-1990s in Washington State.

The second historic event is that on February 5, 2013, Prison Legal News v. Colombia County is scheduled for trial in Portland, Oregon, which will be the first case to go to trial that challenges the constitutionality of a jail postcard-only policy banning all mail except postcards. Currently, all cases challenging postcard-only policies have settled, or, when filed by pro se plaintiffs, have been dismissed. PLN is represented by the Seattle law firm of McDonald, Hogue and Bayless and the Portland law firm of Ransom and Blackman, as well as our general counsel Lance Weber and staff attorney Alissa Hull.

We hope to establish at trial the notion that Americans have a right to communicate by letter and the government cannot restrict prisoners’ communications to postcards. It is a sad commentary that in 2013 we are still fighting to defend rights that were firmly established in 1776 when the U.S. was founded. We will report the outcome of the case at its conclusion.

Lastly, I would like to thank our many readers and supporters who sent their condolences over the recent death of my father and PLN publisher Rollin Wright, and who made donations in his memory to further our work. It is a tribute to the many years he dedicated to the cause of prisoners’ rights in this country; without him, Prison Legal News would not exist.

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