by Paul Wright
This month’s issue of PLN is dedicated to the memory and work of Randall “Randy” Berg, a long-time advocate for prisoners’ rights and human rights who died on April 10, 2019 at the age of 70 following a struggle with ALS. I was fortunate to be able to interview Randy at length on his final day at work in December 2018, and believe that was the last interview he gave. I attended his memorial service, which was packed with friends and colleagues.
Randy was one of PLN’s earliest subscribers in the early 1990s, when we were still focused mostly on news and events in Washington State. He represented us when the Florida DOC censored PLN between 2003 and 2005, and again in a second round of censorship litigation between 2009 and 2019. I corresponded with Randy while I was in prison and then met him once I was released. I hope my interview does justice to his career and his lifelong commitment to advocating for prisoners and other marginalized populations.
I had originally planned to publish this interview at some later point when Florida prisoners would be able to read it, since the Florida prison system continues to censor PLN statewide. [See: PLN, Dec. 2018, p.12]. But given Randy’s recent death this seemed like a good time to run it, and to let the rest of the country know that we have lost a giant in the civil rights movement. One of the things that magnified the impact Randy had was that he practiced in Florida – a state with incredibly brutal and corrupt prisons and jails, and one where the civil rights bar is virtually non-existent. That meant he not only advocated for prisoners and the poor in Florida for four decades, but he also mentored and encouraged those few attorneys who were willing to take such cases.
On a happier note, by now PLN subscribers should have received a free sample copy of Criminal Legal News, and may want to subscribe to stay informed about developments in criminal law, sentencing and policing issues. We are working on a new book, The Habeas Citebook: Prosecutorial Misconduct, by former HRDC staff attorney Alissa Hull, which will focus on cases where convictions have been reversed in habeas petitions due to prosecutorial misconduct. We hope to have it ready to ship by the end of summer, and will keep our readers posted.
The Human Rights Defense Center continues to litigate cases involving prisoners, parolees and arrestees having their money taken from them being returned on fee-laden debit cards. If you or someone you know has been forced to accept a prison or jail debit card upon release and are interested in suing to recover the fees you paid, please contact HRDC at our Lake Worth, Florida address.
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