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PLN Awarded Injunction in Arizona Prison Censorship Suit

by David M. Reutter

In November, 2019, PLN was awarded injunctive relief in a lawsuit challenging the Arizona Department of Corrections’ (ADC) “policy prohibiting sexually explicit material” as a violation of the First Amendment.

As we previously reported, ADC censored the October 2104, April 2017, May 2017 and June 2017 issues of PLN. [See PLN, November 2019, p. 50.] The complaint argued that ADC’s policy did not “contain an exception permitting delivery of publications that describe sexual acts in a non-salacious way as part of an article reporting facts of a court case or published legal decision. As a result, ADC blocked issues of PLN from being given to prisoners throughout its prison system.

Arizona federal district judge Roslyn O. Silver on March 8, 2019 granted and denied in part both parties’ motion for summary judgment. She found ADC’s policy prohibiting sexually explicit material violated the First Amendment and ordered the parties to submit proposed injunctive relief, but they could not reach an agreement.

After considering the respective submissions, the court on November 11, 2019, entered injunctive relief that required ADC to revise its policy “to establish bright-line rules that narrowly define prohibited conduct in a manner consistent with the First Amendment; limit the discretion available to ADC’s employees and agents; and ensure consistency in the exclusion of sexually explicit material.”

It also ordered ADC to require all its mailroom personnel to receive an email with the court’s order and inform them of best practices for compliance, as well as require them to sign an acknowledgement that they received and understood the order.

It further ordered ADC to distribute the previously censored issues of PLN. The state of Arizona has appealed the injunction to the Ninth Circuit. See: Prison Legal News v. Ryan, USDC, D. Arizona, Case No. 2:15-cv-02245. 

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Related legal case

Prison Legal News v. Ryan