by Paul Wright
This month’s cover story is part of our ongoing coverage from the killing fields of Southern prisons, where Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida are vying for the title of deadliest prison system in America. The political and moral bankruptcy of the legislative and executive branches in these states, which have collectively allowed their prison systems to literally collapse over a decades-long period, is difficult to overstate. It is worth noting that all of these prison systems were under statewide court orders and consent decrees in the past because of their brutal and inhumane conditions. All of those court orders and decrees were summarily dissolved under the Prison Litigation Reform Act in the late 1990s, not because conditions had actually improved to a constitutional level but because the PLRA allowed the terminations.
Once that federal court oversight ended, the state prison systems quickly devolved to their current level of massive overcrowding, short staffing, high levels of violence and medical neglect—all of which was duly predicted to happen at the time. With new rounds of litigation, the governments of these states seem surprised that, with so many prisoners needlessly dying, the state may have to do something to provide minimally constitutional conditions of confinement for the people it cages. We will continue reporting these developments as, sadly, nothing is likely to improve anytime soon.
Our latest book, The PLRA Handbook: Law and Practice Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act by John Boston, finally arrived from the printer and all pre-orders have been shipped. A more detailed review of the book is in this issue of PLN. The book has everything anyone could conceivably want to know about the PLRA. We are also working on an e-book version as well, due to requests from visually impaired readers who cannot read regular printed books. We will announce the availability of the e-book version as soon as it is available.
The digitization of prisoner mail seems to be picking up steam. We are interested in challenging these practices, especially to the extent that they impact books or magazine subscriptions. If you are a subscriber to PLN or Criminal Legal News and your subscriptions are censored please let us know. Likewise, if any books ordered from the Human Rights Defense Center are censored we need to know about it so we can take the appropriate action.
This issue of PLN has several ads and articles about pending settlements where national classes of plaintiffs are entitled to money and also where plaintiffs are being sought for other ongoing cases. Please read them to see if you are impacted and consider letting other people know about them.
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