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From the Editor

In 2011, the Human Rights Defense Center – the parent organization of Prison Legal News – co-founded the national Campaign for Prison Phone Justice to eliminate the high costs of prison phone calls. We had success before the Federal Communications Commission, which voted in August 2013 to cap the cost of interstate (long distance) prison and jail phone calls. We are now asking the FCC to regulate and cap the cost of intrastate (in-state) calls as well, which constitute around 85% of phone calls made by prisoners.

In January 2014, HRDC launched the Washington Prison Phone Justice Campaign (WA PPJ) to end the excessive costs of prison and jail phone calls for Washington prisoners. This is a statewide campaign aimed specifically at Washington state prisons, county jails and the immigration detention center in Tacoma, which seeks to eliminate “commission” kickbacks paid to those facilities to secure monopoly contracts for phone services. We have reopened our Seattle, Washington office for this purpose and the WA PPJ campaign will be led by Carrie Wilkinson. Before joining HRDC, Carrie was a senior litigation paralegal at the Seattle law firm of McDonald, Hogue and Bayless, which represented HRDC and PLN in numerous censorship suits in the Pacific Northwest.

PLN subscribers in Washington have already received an initial mailing from the WA PPJ, and will receive more as the campaign proceeds. We have almost completed the task of gathering all the data for prison and jail phone contracts, rates and commission revenue in Washington state. We need to hear from Washington prisoners and those who accept their phone calls concerning the negative impacts of high prison phone rates. People with Internet access can visit to upload videos or post comments, or voice messages can be recorded at 1-877-410-4863. If you are a Washington prisoner, please tell your friends and family members about the WA PPJ and how they can get involved. We want to receive personal stories about prison and jail phone rates in Washington state – see the full-page WA PPJ ad in this issue of PLN for more information.

We are excited about launching the Washington Prison Phone Justice Campaign as our first statewide campaign to end the practice of price-gouging prisoners and their families, which has gone on far too long. We would also like to welcome Carrie on board as HRDC’s newest staff member. She will be working closely with David Ganim, our national Prison Phone Justice Director, as well as other HRDC staff on the issue of reducing prison and jail phone rates in Washington state.

As longtime readers of PLN know, the only thing I dislike about being editor is noting the passing of our friends and allies. Over the past 23 years this has been the worst part of publishing PLN. On January 1, 2014, Marc Blackman, our longtime attorney in Portland, Oregon, died from complications of kidney cancer. Marc was one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the state and had an abiding passion for fairness and justice.

I first got to know Marc in 1999 when the Oregon DOC was banning PLN due to the type of postage rate we used to mail the magazine. Marc agreed to co-counsel the case with Alison Hardy and we filed PLN v. Cook, which we ultimately won, enjoining the Oregon DOC from censoring PLN based on our postage rates. The DOC attempted to ignore the injunctions in that case and Marc co-counseled with attorney Michael Gendler when we filed another suit, PLN v. Schumacher, to ensure compliance with the prior injunctions. Marc also provided wise and able co-counsel in our recent censorship suits against the Columbia and Umatilla County jails in Oregon, which succeeded in ending jail postcard policies throughout that state.

In February 2013, PLN v. Columbia County went to trial in Portland, Oregon and I spent a lot of time with Marc both in and out of the courtroom, shortly before he was diagnosed with cancer. Marc was an exceptional attorney and over the many years he represented PLN his counsel and tenacious representation was valued and helped lead us to victory in every case. Unlike many successful trial lawyers, Marc did not have a huge ego and was wonderful to work with. He will be sorely missed and both criminal defendants and prisoners in Oregon have lost a dedicated advocate and warrior for their rights. This issue of PLN is dedicated to Marc’s memory, and all the staff at HRDC send our condolences to his friends, family and the law firm of Ransom Blackman LLP.

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