From the Editor
by Paul Wright
In 25 years of publishing Prison Legal News, we have reported a number of recurring themes where the only specifics that change are the names, dates and locations. But the broader issues – prison slavery, government corruption, guards raping prisoners, brutality, medical neglect, etc. – continue unabated. So too with crime labs. Crime labs have as much to do with science as the military does with music. In the real world, crime labs function as extensions of the police and prosecutors to provide dramatic props to secure convictions regardless of any connection to reality and even less reliance on scientific methods. With respect to the many crime lab analysts who fabricate evidence and dry-lab samples, we can note they only concoct evidence to convict, never to acquit, which indicates their pro-government pathology.
Once more the brunt of crime lab misconduct and corruption falls most heavily on the backs of indigent defendants who are too poor to hire their own experts and must rely on the government’s crime lab reports and the ability of their attorneys to cross examine lab workers about the accuracy and manner in which their tests are conducted. As we have repeatedly seen, this is not very effective. Wealthy defendants, of course, can hire independent experts to conduct their own tests, which is probably why wrongful convictions remain the exclusive province of the poor in the U.S.
Absent adequate funding for defense experts and testing, or independent crime labs that are not branches of the police or prosecutor’s office, this state of affairs will most likely continue for the foreseeable future and PLN readers can look forward to another crime lab feature story in a few more years.
As astute readers will have noticed, last month we expanded to 72 pages to bring you even more news and information. We are trying to keep our subscription rates down and one way you can help us do this is to encourage others to subscribe, as the more subscribers we have the lower our per-issue costs. Also, if you patronize any PLN advertisers, please tell them you saw their ad in PLN so they know their ads are getting results. If we had the funds, we could easily deliver 100 pages of high-quality news reporting each month. If you know of any businesses that cater to prisoners that are not advertising in PLN, please encourage them to advertise and send ustheir contact information so we can reach out to them.
Also, if you have not yet purchased a copy of the Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual by Dan Manville, this is a good time to do so. The third book by PLN Publishing, it includes everything you need to know about prison disciplinary hearings and more. Prisoners should ask their libraries or law libraries to purchase copies. Each year prison officials add thousands of years to prisoners’ sentences, send tens of thousands to solitary confinement and impose numerous other sanctions as a result of dubious disciplinary hearings. The first step to asserting your rights is knowing what they are.
Lastly, as long-time PLN readers know, for the past 25 years we have been in the vanguard of opposition to the financial exploitation of prisoners and their families. In 1996 I was the class-action representative in Wright v. Riveland, a case challenging the constitutionality of a Washington statute that seized 35% of money sent to prisoners. In 2000, my ex-wife, my mother and a former PLN board member were the class-action representatives in Judd v. AT&T, the only lawsuit to date to recover any money ($46 million) from the prison telecom industry – AT&T and Securus – over their practices in Washington state. I edited the anthology Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration in 2008 to expose the companies and groups that profit from mass incarceration and benefit financially from the U.S. having the highest incarceration rate in human history.
We are long-time opponents of the private prison industry and were the first to actively oppose the practice of gouging prisoners’ families on the cost of telephone calls, starting in 1992. In 2011 we co-founded the national Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, which successfully pressured the FCC to cap the cost of long distance prison and jail phone calls; similar reforms for in-state calls are currently pending. We have reported extensively on these issues in PLN over the years, and were often the first to do so.
The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), our parent organization, is now launching a new campaign, Stop Prison Profiteers, with the goal of ending the financial exploitation of prisoners and their families. We are collecting information and stories concerning the fees charged to send money to prisoners and fees for making parole and probation payments. We are also seeking information on the fees and costs associated with the use of debit release cards, especially by jails, where prisoners’ release funds are placed on debit cards that include excessive fees. Lastly, we are looking for cases where prison telecom companies require pre-payment of phone accounts and then either seize the funds due to inactivity or other reasons, or charge a fee for a refund of the money remaining in the account. For more information about the campaign, visit www.stopprisonprofiteers.org.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of any of these practices, please contact us. We can also use any documentation you may have. People can go to the above website and upload a video, tell their story in a phone call or e-mail us. Or you can write to PLN, Attn: Stop Prison Profiteers, P.O. Box 1151, Lake Worth, FL 33460 and tell us what happened to you or your family members and when, where and how you were financially exploited.
Over the past 30 years there has been a concerted effort to shift the costs of running the U.S. police state onto the backs, and wallets, of the poorest Americans. We want to change that paradigm. If the ruling class wants a police state so badly, they can pay for it themselves.
And as far as paying for things goes, we rely exclusively on the support of readers and supporters like you to start and maintain these projects. If you or your family will benefit by having these exploitive practices stopped, then please send a donation to the Human Rights Defense Center so we can make the Stop Prison Profiteers campaign a success. We receive no grant or foundation funding and need your support to do this work; every little bit helps, so please donate and encourage others to do so, too. Enjoy this issue of PLN.
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