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From the Editor

By now everyone should have received our special fundraiser issue, which includes our 2015 annual report. We don’t get many visitors to our office in Lake Worth, Florida, and when we do reactions tend to fall into two categories when people realize we have 15 full-time staff members dedicated to advocating for prisoners and their families. Either they thought we were much larger because we accomplish so much, or they thought we were much smaller because as long-term supporters they remember the good old days when I edited the magazine from prison and we had an all-volunteer staff. Our annual report provides a good overview of the depth and breadth of the work we do – from our litigation around the country, including the amicus briefs we file, to our advocacy with the Federal Communications Commission and other federal agencies, to our public speaking engagements to the many media interviews we do, and much more.

Every month it takes a team of people to ensure readers are sent, and can receive, their issues of PLN and book orders. Besides myself there is PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann; Susan Schwartzkopf, our advertising director and Chief Financial Officer; Judy Cohen, our office manager; Stephanie Kasica and Francis Sauceda, who handle PLN customer service; Robert Pew, our mail assistant; Carrie Wilkinson, director of our Prison Phone Justice and Stop Prison Profiteering campaigns; Lance Weber, our litigation director and general counsel; Sabarish Neelakanta, our staff attorney; Rachel Stephens and Kathy Moses, our paralegals and legal support staff; Jenny Wright, PLN’s online communications director; Panagioti Tsolkas, our Prison Ecology Project director and special projects coordinator; and Monte McCoin, our social media director.

This is the PLN/HRDC team that works hard every month to ensure the magazine is produced and mailed, books are published and shipped, and our advocacy, litigation, special campaigns and everything else that needs to be done gets done to effectively advocate for prisoners and their families. All of our hard-working employees deserve thanks and appreciation for everything they do. The volunteers who assist us, including Wil Van Atta, Shauna Coolican and Janet Callas, are to be commended, too.

In fact we get a lot done with very limited resources. One of the problems the criminal justice reform sector struggles with is that there is very little foundation funding available for advocacy work, and even less for anyone that does anything related to conditions of confinement for prisoners. Because we focus the bulk of our activism on conditions of confinement and the exploitation of prisoners and their families by corrections officials and for-profit companies, we have to rely on you, our readers and supporters, for the funds we need to keep the doors open, our staff paid and the computers on.

Instead of buying the books we distribute, some prisoners buy them from Amazon to save a few bucks. The difference is that when prison or jail officials censor a book from Amazon, that massive company isn’t going to do anything about it because it does not consider prisoners to be part of its market – not even a small one, much less one worth fighting for. When a book ordered from PLN is censored by a prison or jail, we conduct a full follow-up to investigate the problem and what needs to happen to ensure our readers receive both PLN and the books we distribute, up to and including filing suit. No other publisher or book distributor does that for its customers. And unlike Amazon, we pay our employees a living wage and offer benefits as well.

If you can afford to make a donation to PLN/HRDC, please do so. You should encourage others you know to donate, too; every little bit helps, and don’t think that a small donation is too small to make a difference. We operate a lean organization, so every donation goes a longer way with us than it does with larger ones. You can also consider becoming a monthly sustaining donor, by contributing a small amount every month.

The second edition of The Habeas Citebook: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel is available and has been receiving rave reviews from readers who have ordered their copies. We have also added several new books from West Publishing to our book store, and everyone has really liked Cell Workout. Our full list of books is in the back of the magazine. As you think about what to get for the holidays, consider a book from PLN or a PLN subscription, which are great gifts for prisoners and non-prisoners alike.

By the time you receive this issue of PLN, the 2016 presidential election will be over. For prisoners and their advocates, who occupies the White House doesn’t really matter. Both Trump and Clinton support the death penalty and are “law and order” candidates. No one has done more in American history to build the machine of mass incarceration and to further immiserate and oppress American prisoners than Bill Clinton has, with bi-partisan consensus and support. It is not surprising that the so-called criminal justice “reform” legislation in Congress has collapsed. Regardless of who we have to deal with in the White House, Congress or the courts, we will continue to advocate for the human and constitutional rights of people held in U.S. prisons, jails and other detention facilities.

Each election cycle only serves to remind us even more of how alienated and politically disenfranchised our nation’s prisoners are. Not only are prisoners barred from voting in all states except Vermont and Maine, but as we have reported in PLN, millions of former prisoners cannot vote, either. September 9 of this year saw another election of sorts, where thousands of prisoners elected to refuse to work in protest of their status as slaves – a status enshrined in the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We will be reporting the various actions that took place nation-wide in an upcoming issue.

Enjoy this issue of PLN, and please encourage others to subscribe and donate to support our work. 

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