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Los Angeles County Jail Faces Lawsuit Over Censorship of PLN

On July 5, 2017, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), which publishes Prison Legal News, filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Jail alleging civil rights violations. The jail holds the largest number of pre-trial detainees in the United States, and was previously the subject of a federal investigation that resulted in the conviction of former sheriff Lee Baca and other jail officials. [See: PLN, June 2017, p.42; March 2013, p.1].

HRDC accused the Los Angeles County Jail of violating state and federal free speech and due process rights as well as violations of California’s Bane Act, which protects against law enforcement interference with constitutional rights by threat, intimidation or coercion.

The federal lawsuit claims jail officials unconstitutionally blocked delivery of PLN to prisoners in the Men’s Central Jail’s general population and in a restrictive housing unit known as “K-10.”

Rather than delivering the publication, jail staff repeatedly intercepted its delivery and returned issues with labels such as “contents unacceptable,” “unacceptable reading material” and “banned” stamped on them. Further, HRDC said the jail was denying due process by failing to provide adequate notice and a chance to appeal censorship decisions.

In addition, on at least seven occasions the jail blocked mail containing copies of a court decision dealing with prison rules barring prisoners from receiving material printed from the Internet.

“Pre-trial detainees have already been stripped of their freedom, but the L.A. County Jail isn’t stopping there. It is illegally denying prisoners constitutionally-protected, free speech materials that might actually teach them about their rights while behind bars,” said HRDC executive director Paul Wright. “Given the long history of violence, brutality, corruption and neglect at the Los Angeles jail and its dismal management, no one needs this information more than prisoners in that facility.”

HRDC is represented by the law firm of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, LLP, as well as attorney Brian A. Vogel and HRDC staff attorneys. See: HRDC v. County of Los Angeles, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:17-cv-04883-R-AS. 

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Related legal case

HRDC v. County of Los Angeles