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From the Editor

by Paul Wright

For the past 29 years, HRDC has been reporting on the myriad problems in California prisons and the class-action lawsuits that have led to wholesale transformations of the criminal justice system in that state. The most significant prison conditions case of the 21st century is Plata v. Brown, where the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an order to lower California’s prison population after the trial court found that overcrowding had made the provision of adequate medical care functionally impossible, resulting in preventable deaths. While the state successfully managed to reduce its prison population, prisoners were not released but rather “realigned” and sent to county jails to serve often lengthy sentences.

California jails were hardly the model of well-run facilities before realignment increased their populations, and all too often were more dangerous and poorly run, and medical care was even more inadequate than in state prisons. This issue’s cover story explores the impact of realignment on county jails. Of course, none of this is new. PLN has been reporting for decades on deadly violence and corruption in jails in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Orange County and elsewhere in California. Realignment merely exacerbated conditions that were already bad and made them worse. All of which illustrates the abject failure of the state legislative and executive branches to be able to run a constitutionally adequate corrections system, because no matter how low that bar may be, they can’t seem to avoid tripping on it.

By now subscribers should have received their annual HRDC fundraiser packet which includes the Human Rights Defense Center’s annual report, media articles and more. Our subscription rates and advertising alone do not cover the expenses of our advocacy on behalf of prisoners and their families. If you can afford to make a donation to support our work, please do so. If you know anyone who might be interested in supporting what we do, please encourage them to make a donation as well as subscribe.

It has been almost two years since we launched Criminal Legal News to report on criminal law and procedure, sentencing, and police and prosecutorial issues. The publication has since grown in both size and circulation. PLN subscribers will soon receive a free sample copy of CLN; please consider subscribing to itas well. There is little overlap between the publications, and a subscription to both PLN and CLN will give readers an overview of the criminal justice system at all levels from arrest and sentencing through incarceration and reentry. 

I am excited to announce that a new PLN Publishing book is available. After a lot of hard work, The Habeas Citebook: Prosecutorial Misconduct by Alissa Hull is available in time for the holidays. Building on the success and popularity of our first title in the series, The Habeas Citebook: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, former HRDC staff attorney Alissa Hull has written a stunningly useful book that cites hundreds of cases where defendants were able to overturn their convictions based on prosecutorial misconduct. With an overview of relevant case law from all 50 states and the federal government, this is the most complete book on this topic anywhere. The title is exclusively available from HRDC and makes a perfect holiday gift. Ordering information is on page 37.

If you are incarcerated and have had problems receiving your subscriptions to PLN or CLN or the books we distribute, please let us know. We recently filed suit against the Michigan Department of Corrections and have litigation pending against prison systems in Arizona and Illinois. Further, we continue to monitor consent decrees in Nevada, California, Oregon and other states. Prison and jail officials frequently do not tell us when our mail is censored, so notify us if you are not receiving our publications so we can take appropriate measures to ensure that you do.

Enjoy this issue of PLN and please encourage others to subscribe and donate.