From the Editor
by Paul Wright
Over the past 25 years of publishing PLN we have run numerous stories about the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City, generally dealing with guard brutality and medical neglect. Despite several major class-action suits and hundreds if not thousands of other lawsuits, as well as rivers of ink spilled documenting the abuse and countless investigations and reports, the misconduct, corruption and deficient medical care has continued unabated.
Rikers Island is literally a landfill waste dump in the middle of a river in the wealthiest city in the world, and has proved largely impervious to reform or control despite ample lip service paid to both over the decades. The guards’ union at Rikers does not pretend to be anything other than a bunch of thugs intent on fatter paychecks and impunity for their actions.
Even as the latest reforms are announced, it remains to be seen if they will go any further than all the other reforms of the past 40 years. At its core the reality remains that the American government rules through force, violence and brutality, and mass incarceration has served to accelerate and accentuate that reality. Rikers Island exemplifies the typical nature of the modern police state: a lack of transparency, no accountability and no pretense of civilian control over the goons who run the place.
The bipartisan nature of the U.S. police state is nowhere better demonstrated than at Rikers, where year after year, regardless of who was in office – Republicans or Democrats – in what is supposedly a “liberal” city, the abuses have continued for decades. The lack of political will to implement meaningful reforms indicates where human rights abuses lie on the priority list for the American government at all levels.
Meanwhile, PLN continues to report on abuses in U.S. detention facilities, and to that end we encourage readers to send us your photos of prisons and prison-related conditions for posting on our website. Likewise, please send us your verdicts and settlements when you win or settle a lawsuit, along with a copy of the complaint.
As we move into our 26th year of publishing, we continue to face censorship by prison and jail officials unhappy about our reporting and news coverage. If you are a PLN subscriber and your copy of PLN is censored or withheld, please let us know immediately and send us the censorship notice and any grievance responses you received so we can take appropriate action.
We recently launched our Stop Prison Profiteering campaign: www.stopprisonprofiteering.org. We are seeking information and stories about people who are being charged excessive fees to send money to prisoners; prisoners who are released from prison or jail (including arrestees) and given their money on a debit card; and people exploited by the prison telephone industry, whose phone accounts are closed due to inactivity and the money seized, or who cannot obtain a refund of their account balance. These are all practices we need to document and halt. If you or your family has been affected by these practices, please contact us and provide details – see the instructions in the ad on page 4. With your help we can end this financial exploitation of prisoners and their family members!
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