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From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Welcome to the 28th anniversary issue of Prison Legal News. If someone had told me in 1990, when PLN first started, that nearly three decades later we would not only still be publishing but I would still be serving as the editor and we would have 19 employees, I would have been incredulous.

When Ed Mead and I founded PLN while incarcerated in Washington State, we had $300 between us to publish six issues. We had discussed how we would continue to publish, and decided that as long as donations and subscriptions kept coming in we would keep publishing. They did, and we haven’t stopped since then.

Each year the list of people who support PLN and our parent organization, the Human Rights Defense Center, grows longer. Those who have made our work possible have ranged from the many unpaid volunteers who helped us get started in the early 1990s to our board members, employees, the attorneys who ensured prisoners could actually receive and read PLN, our advertisers, donors and of course our subscribers.

The first issue of PLN was 10 pages long and we requested a $10 donation for a 12-issue subscription. That we have grown in size to 72 pages and our rates have only increased to $30 over the past 28 years is a tribute both to our advertisers – which subsidize our costs – and our ability to keep expenses down.

Along the way we have encountered unremitting censorship and hostility from prisoncrats around the country who are hostile to the news that we attempt to disseminate and report through PLN and our other monthly magazine, Criminal Legal News. Dozens of attorneys around the country have helped to ensure the distribution of our publications and books to prisoners. PLN remains the most censored publication in the United States.

By now PLN subscribers should have received another free sample copy of CLN, our sixth published issue since we launched that magazine last December. CLN has already expanded from 40 to 48 pages. We are working on building up our reader base, and if you are interested in criminal law and procedure as well as police, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, then I hope you will consider subscribing and encouraging others to subscribe.

As we seek mailing lists to send sample copies of CLN, we are finding there are virtually no print publications left that have an actual physical mailing list for prisoners. This makes it harder to inform potential subscribers of CLN’s existence. Ideally, readers will want subscribe to both PLN and CLN to have complete coverage of criminal justice-related issues.

This month’s cover story is on the impact that hurricanes and storms have on prisoners. Over the years we have reported the devastating and sometimes deadly consequences when inclement weather hits prisons and jails where prisoners have not been evacuated. While such disasters may indeed be “natural,” the devastation wrought on prisoners is totally manmade and the result of callous indifference by prison and jail officials to the lives and safety of the prisoners entrusted to their care.

Time after time, for almost three decades we have reported on detention facilities that refuse to evacuate prisoners even as hurricanes approach, then still refuse to evacuate them after the storms have passed leaving destruction in their wake – including power outages and flooding. As the 2018 hurricane season approaches, this issue’s cover story serves as a reminder that there is no reason why prisoners should have to suffer or perish due to hurricanes and storms.

Enjoy this issue of Prison Legal News, and please encourage others to donate to the Human Rights Defense Center and subscribe to both PLN and CLN. The more subscribers we have, the lower we can keep our per-issue costs and the more funds will be available for our advocacy work. 


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