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From the Editor

It seems like an eternity since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S. in January of this year and the first deaths began occurring in March. Now, each day brings grim news for American prisoners. Everyone I know in the prisoner rights community is working long, hard hours to get prisoners released or ensure some measure of safety to them at every level: state, local, federal, immigration and juvenile. 

PLN is providing coverage about what is happening at each level. There is such a huge amount of news and information on COVID-19 and detention facilities that simply reviewing it is a major challenge.

I have been reporting on prison and jail news for a little over 30 years now. Ken Silverstein, PLN’s managing editor, brings around 35 years of news reporting experience tothe table. Neither one of us can recall the media so relentlessly focused on a single topic as with COVID-19. We’re simply not finding much as we scour news wires for criminal justice stories that areunrelated to COVID-19. 

We are publishing stories that were in our article pipeline before the pandemic hit as we think it is important to remember that pandemic or not, the beatings, medical neglect, censorship and other injustices of the modern American gulag haven’t stopped.

Much of the news coverage about COVID-19 and detention facilities is poorly sourced and speculative. We are trying to bring PLN readers the most accurate and best news we can. We are running individual articles about statewide prison release orders as they affect broader numbers of prisoners. Individual release orders and denials of statewide release motions will be discussedinbroader round-up articles. Likewise, we will report on the use of prison slave labor during the pandemic, lies and cover ups by prison officials, and the grim toll the pandemic is taking.

I would like to thank the prisoners who are writing to us with comments about how COVID-19 is affecting you and your prison. We are reporting some in PLN as part of Ken’s Postcards from Prison series but most are going onto PLN’s website, which more than 100,000 people a month visit. If things are especially bad in your prison or jail, write PLN and tell us about it. Pictures are great as well. Be brief, clear and concise. Let us know if you are okay being named or just wish your initials to be used. If necessary, we can just name your facility.

Thanks to Dr. Michael Cohen for providing ongoing medical coverage of the pandemic to PLN readers. While Ken and I are very knowledgeable about prison issues in general, having a medical professional familiar with the grim reality of treatment in prisons and jails lets us focus on the other elements of the news cycle.

As readers know, we are continuing to publish, print and mail both PLN and Criminal Legal News, and we are continuing to ship book orders within 24 hours of receiving them. Our staff is working tirelessly to ensure readers get the latest news in a timely manner. Likewise, our litigation team continues working hard to ensure prisoners in particular can receive our publications. In addition, we are fielding many media inquiries on COVID-19 in detention facilities, and I am doing two to five radio and TV interviews a week with both national and international media. Hearing from our readers about what is happening to you puts us in a better position to tell the world what is happening inside prisons and jails.

By now, subscribers should have received a fundraiser mailing from me and HRDC. If you can donate to help support our work during this crisis, it will be deeply appreciated. The COVID-19 pandemic has our staff working harder than ever, a situation made more difficult because most are now forced to work remotely. 

We know that times are tough financially for everyone these days, and nonprofits doing prisoner rights advocacy are no exception. If you can donate, please do so. If you can’t, but know someone who can, please encourage them to donate. All donations, no matter how large or small, go a long way with HRDC. We are a lean and efficient operation. We rely on individual supporters like you to do our critical advocacy work, in addition to our book and magazine publishing.

As last month’s issue was going to press, we ran an ad announcing that a donor was sponsoring 1,700 six-month trial subscriptions to PLN for prisoners to better inform them about COVID-19 and measures they can take to protect themselves. If you would like a trial subscription, please send $1. This offer does not apply to current or former subscribers (and you must have at leastnine months remaining on your sentence) as its goal is to further grow PLN’s reader and subscriber base.