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HRDC Sues Lincoln County Wisconsin Jail over Censorship Practices

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) sued the Lincoln County, Wisconsin, Jail (LCJ) alleging its mail policies violate HRDC’s First Amendment rights by banning all publications. The lawsuit also alleges Fourteenth Amendment violations for failing to provide due process when censoring HRDC’s publications and for its vague policy.

HRDC first learned of censorship by LCJ in January 2021 when one of its subscribers to Criminal Legal News (CLN) provided HRDC with a grievance on the censorship of CLN. A response attached to the grievance stated that LCJ does not allow vendors to send items such as books and magazines via mail to persons housed LCJ.

HRDC then made several attempts to mail its printed materials to persons held at LCJ. At least 33 items were censored. Amongst those items were copies of CLN, Prison Legal News, Protecting Your Health and Safety, Prisoners’ Guerilla Handbook. Many of the items were returned to HRDC’s office marked “Return to Sender.” Some items were not returned at all.

The “Defendants failed to provide HRDC any notice or opportunity to appeal these censorship decisions,” the complaint alleges in making a Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim. It asserts the censorship violates HRDC’s First Amendment right to disseminate its message to persons at LCJ, and frustrates its ability to carry out its organizational mission, and prevents it from recruiting subscribers. Finally, the complaint alleges LCJ’s mail policy is vague and overbroad.

PLN will report future developments in this litigation. See: Human Rights Defense Center v. Lincoln County, Wisconsin, USDC, W.D. WI, Case No. 3:21-cv-00453. 

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Related legal case

Human Rights Defense Center v. Lincoln County, Wisconsin