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From the Editor

We seem to be settling in for the long haul on COVID in American prisons and jails. The big takeaway is that the government’s attitude is to pretty much keep everyone locked up and hope for the best, and if a bunch of prisoners die, it’s not that big of a deal. The number of state and federal prisoners who have been released due to COVID concerns is quite small. The second takeaway is that in class action lawsuits over COVID conditions, whatever prisoners gain at the trial court level they are losing on appeal with every single appellate decision to date being in favor of prison and jail officials. PLN will continue reporting the news and the litigation and releases occurring around COVID at all levels. Thanks to our many writers who have written and sent us updates on what is happening with COVID in their facility.

PLN’s managing editor Ken and I read all the letters related to COVID that readers have sent us and they paint a dismal picture at every level. With winter coming, and with it “cold and flu season,” we expect things to worsen even more.

As if COVID were not enough, prisoners in the Southeast are dealing with hurricanes while prisoners on the West Coast are subjected to forest fires. The wisdom of building all these prisons in remote rural areas may now be in doubt. Upcoming issues will report on these events as well. A pandemic, coupled with natural disasters in prisons, would seem like the topic of a very bad grade B movie, but sadly it is becoming all too common across the U.S.

A lot of new subscribers have joined us as part of our COVID special trial subscriptions. As the six-issue trial subscription ends, I hope readers decide to renew their subscriptions to continue receiving PLN. Please renew early so we can cut down on the renewal mailings — and it frees our staff up for other issues, like reading prisoner mail. We have also sent subscribers sample copies of our other monthly magazine, Criminal Legal News, so they will be aware of it as it is a newer publication. Subscribing to PLN and CLN will ensure you are well informed on all aspects of the criminal justice system. Subscribe now and encourage others to subscribe as well!

We have launched our annual fundraiser, and readers will soon receive our fundraiser packet, which includes our annual report and media articles about the Human Rights Defense Center, and more about everything else it does besides publish and distribute our magazines.

We only do one annual fundraiser, and we rely on support from readers like you to help pay for things like advocacy and litigation that subscriptions alone do not pay for. Please donate and support HRDC and the work we do if you can afford to do so. All donations, large and small, help. Please consider becoming a monthly sustaining donor. A number of people donate $10 a month to HRDC on a recurring basis, and while the donations seem small, they add up and do make a difference in the work we are able to do.

This is the last issue of PLN readers will receive before the election. For most presidential elections since 1992, we have run comparisons between the major party candidates and their track records on criminal justice issues. For the past 30 years, these have been comparisons in cruelty and brutality as candidates tried to outdo themselves in terms of who can serve the police state better. After John Kerry and John Edwards ran for president in 2004 on a platform calling for more rural prisons, I thought that would be tough to beat.

But Joe Biden, with over five decades dedicated to more cops, more prisons, more cages and less freedom for everyone, has managed to do so. He is truly a major and proud architect of mass incarceration and the modern American police state. When Obama and Biden took office in 2008 amid the mortgage industry meltdown, they immediately sent billions of dollars to police, prisons and jails to prop up the repressive core of the American government at the local and state levels. Most likely why every police and guard union endorsed Obama and Biden for office in 2008. The article with more details is in this issue.

From the day we first started publishing PLN on May 1, 1990, we have supported felon/prisoner voting and have long opposed felon disenfranchisement. But the bigger issue is not whether prisoners, felons or anyone else can vote, but who do we have to vote for? Not having candidates that differ from each other in any significant sense much less on any policy or practical issues is a major problem and most likely the one that causes 40 to 45 percent of eligible voters to exercise their right not to vote.

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