From the Editor
by Paul Wright
It doesn’t seem like this is the 301st issue of Prison Legal News. When we published our first issue in 1990 I didn’t have an expectation of how long the publication would last nor did I think about its longevity very much. I still don’t. The rule of thumb in publishing is that if you make it past your first year, things tend to get better. And so it has been with PLN.
What has not improved is the state of the prison press. When we started publishing 25 years ago there were over 50 different independent prisoners’ rights publications in the U.S. plus several more in Canada. California alone had six. As the 90s wore on and the prison population doubled, prisoner publications fell by the wayside and went under, one by one. I think the combined forces of government repression, lack of money and political apathy contributed to the demise of the prison press, but that doesn’t account for all of it. Today PLN is the longest-lasting, nationally-circulated independent prisoners’ rights magazine in U.S. history.
The cover story summarizing our first quarter-century is of necessity a brief and condensed version. There have been organizational changes with growth. Going from an all-volunteer publication to one with 13 full-time employees has been one of our biggest changes, and has meant we have been able to undertake larger and more ambitious projects on a national level. As our litigation track record shows, we have litigated wrongful death, public records and First Amendment censorship cases in 30 states. We distribute PLN to subscribers in hundreds of prisons and jails across the country each month.
When we first began publishing PLN, few people had even heard of the Internet. Our online presence has enabled us to reach far more people globally than we were able to do when we started. Ironically we still face the same problems reaching prisoners, including fascistic prison and jail officials who censor our magazine, ban books and publications in general, and otherwise try to ensure that prisoners remain ignorant and uninformed of their rights. The more things change the more they remain the same.
I would like to thank all of our readers, because without your support we would not be able to continue publishing. In this month’s cover story I thank many of the people who have helped ensure PLN’s inception, survival and growth. The unfortunate thing about being around this long is that our supporters die. As I have mentioned previously, the saddest part of editing PLN is writing the obituaries of our friends and supporters. For six years my father, Rollin Wright, was our volunteer office manager. Between 1990 and 1996 he picked up, read and processed all of PLN’s mail, handled our finances, paid the bills and did whatever else needed to be done after he got home from his day job of running a stamp and coin store. I had asked him to handle PLN’s mail for a few months until we found a volunteer in Seattle to take over. Rollin was one of our first board members and remained one of our biggest supporters until he died in 2012. It’s sad that he didn’t make it to our 25th anniversary.
Later this year, in the fall, we will be commemorating 25 years of PLN in different parts of the country. We will announce the details as they develop.
Our website also has a photo gallery, and we are seeking new pictures related to prisons and jails. If you have any please send them via email to email@example.com; only send pictures to which you hold the rights and grant us permission to post them on our site. If you have not already done so, check out www.prisonlegalnews.org, which contains the largest online collection of news articles, court rulings and publications related to prisons and criminal justice topics. Our Prison Phone Justice site, www.prisonphonejustice.org, includes the telephone contracts, rates and kickbacks for all state prison systems plus our many comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission. We also provide a free newsletter, delivered five days a week – sign up at www.prisonlegalnews.org/subscribe/email. Further, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and more information about our parent organization, the Human Rights Defense Center, is available at www.humanrightsdefensecenter.org.
I would also like to thank our readers who send us verdicts and settlements from cases they have won for reporting in PLN or on our website. Please keep doing so, as it’s an important part of our news coverage.
When people ask what they can do to help PLN, first and foremost they can subscribe. Are you reading someone else’s magazine? Buy your own subscription. Purchase books from us or send a donation. At the end of the day, free speech isn’t free. Right now PLN and HRDC do not receive a penny in foundation funding or grants; we rely entirely on our readers, supporters and litigation for our budget. Even small donations help, and I urge readers to become sustaining donors by committing to send $10 or more a month to PLN.
Happy 25th Anniversary!
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