by Paul Wright
Welcome to the 29th anniversary issue of Prison Legal News! We published the first issue of PLN on May Day in 1990, which was 348 issues ago. At the time PLN consisted of 10 hand-typed pages and the inaugural issue was sent to 75 prospective subscribers. Our first three issues were censored by the Washington DOC. Needless to say, we have grown since then both in terms of our page count, number of subscribers and readership, and have gone from being an all-volunteer organization to one with 18 full-time employees with offices in Florida, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Over 29 years of reporting on criminal justice issues we have seen the American prison and jail population grow exponentially from one million people held in cages to 2.3 million. During that time prisoners’ rights have steadily diminished on every front. I don’t know that police corruption or brutality has gotten worse over the same period, since it has long been rampant, yet today – thanks largely to social media and cell phone videos – the commonality of extrajudicial police killings is widely known, as are the impunity and lack of consequences for most officers involved in such incidents.
One of the things that has remained constant throughout our almost three decades of publishing is government hostility to and censorship of our publications. As I write this editorial, we have over 20 lawsuits pending at various stages around the country challenging the censorship by prison and jail officials of PLN, Criminal Legal News and the books we publish and distribute. If anything, we have seen a significant decrease in freedom of speech in the U.S. both in and out of prison, as the recent arrest of Julian Assange attests.
That we have not only continued to publish over the past 29 years but have actually grown is a tribute to the support we’ve received from our volunteers, staff, board members, the many attorneys who have represented us in court challenges, our writers, advertisers, donors and, of course, our loyal subscribers. We have many more readers than we do subscribers, yet it is subscribers whose paid subscriptions actually support the fine journalism you have grown to expect. If you are reading PLN or CLN but are not a subscriber, please consider ordering a subscription or making a donation to support our work so we can bring you even more useful articles. Since 1990 PLN has grown from 10 pages to 72, and our website, prisonlegalnews.org, has the most complete database of prison, jail and criminal justice-related articles in the world. Contributions to support our work are always welcome and appreciated.
This month’s cover story is about the lack of mental health care in American jails. One of the biggest engines of carceral growth in the U.S. over the past 30 years has been at the local level. While jails have increasingly caged more people than ever before, they have dedicated relatively little in the way of resources to provide prisoners with adequate medical or mental health treatment. Every day these atrocities play out in jails across the country yet they rarely receive much media attention – and if they do, they are considered local news stories. Sadly, even when deaths and injuries resulting from poorly run jails are documented and reported, there is little interest or political will to hold sheriffs accountable, much less to do things differently.
Enjoy this issue of PLN and please consider subscribing if you are not already a paid subscriber, and encourage others to do so as well.
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