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From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This is the last issue of Prison Legal News for 2021 and it is ending pretty much where it started in terms of widespread COVID outbreaks in prisons and jails across the country. The good news is there are now vaccines available which appear to mitigate if not prevent COVID infections. The latest push in many states has been to require guards, cops and first responders to be vaccinated when it has been determined that, at least in prisons and jails, the staff were the primary sources of infection bringing the disease into the facilities. Not surprisingly, there has been pushback with many insisting they have a right to both be employed and to knowingly endanger their coworkers and the prisoners in their custody. We will continue reporting on COVID as it develops.

This month’s cover story discusses the environmental hazards that are present in prisons and jails around the country, especially the older ones which are often sited on abandoned toxic waste sites as well as being filled with assorted dangerous items ranging from asbestos to arsenic. PLN has long covered and reported on the intersections between mass incarceration and environmental degradation and how it affects both prisoners and the neighboring communities around prisons.

The mail and our printer both continue to be slower than usual. Please be patient and give the post office time to deliver the mail.

By now most PLN and Criminal Legal News subscribers should have received our annual fundraiser packet. It includes our annual report for 2020 which summarizes both the depth and the breadth of our activities. As it shows, we do much, much more besides publish magazines and distribute books! If you have not yet donated, please do so now. We rely on support from individuals like you to carry out much of the advocacy work that we do. No donation is too large or too small to help. Let others know about HRDC and encourage them to donate as well.

As we close the year we are wrapping up the final edits for the latest title from Prison Legal News Publishing which is The PLRA Handbook: Law and Practice Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. As soon as the book is available we will let readers know. The author is legendary prisoner rights attorney John Boston and the book is the most in depth and detailed reference piece on the PLRA that has ever been published. As soon as the book goes to the printer we will be advertising it and taking pre orders.

As we go to press, we have sued the North Carolina prison system for censoring our publications. We currently have censorship lawsuits pending against prison systems in: Washington, Florida, Illinois, Arizona, Michigan and are preparing another one in the Midwest. These censorship cases take an enormous amount of time and resources to successfully litigate. We also have a number of censorship suits pending against jails around the country as well. When COVID struck, our legal team prioritized censorship litigation to ensure prisoners could receive news and information about the pandemic and we have been successful in accomplishing this. We will publish details in an upcoming issue of PLN.

Enjoy this issue of PLN and encourage others to subscribe and please support our work with whatever resources you have at your disposal. Everyone at HRDC wishes our readers and supporters a happy holiday seasons and best wishes for a better new year. 

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