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From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s cover story on Rikers Island is one of dozens of articles we have run on the New York City jail over the past 32 years, and it shows the entrenched nature of police state power in America. Located in the heart of America’s biggest and richest city, on a toxic landfill, for decades Rikers Island has been synonymous with abuse, brutality, corruption and a total lack of accountability that has shown the inability and unwillingness of local government officials to cage people in a humane manner.

Lest anyone think that Rikers is unique in its brutality and corruption, pretty much the same can be said of jails around the country. The only differences tend to follow the rule that the bigger they are, the worse they are. PLN has done similar stories every four or five years on most of the major jails in the country: Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, etc., and while the specifics may differ the overall themes are the same.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage prison and jail populations around the country. The most interesting part of it is how more prisoners than staff are now vaccinated against the disease and how staff are increasingly the main vectors spreading the disease inside and out of detention facilities. They are also increasingly the group recording the most fatalities. We will continue reporting on developments relating to the pandemic along with other health issues. One thing we have tried to emphasize in our reporting is that despite COVID-19, health care for prisoners remains abysmal and prisoners are still dying of many other diseases.

The latest book from the Human Rights Defense Center is The PLRA Handbook: Law and Practice Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, by John Boston. It is currently at the printer and should be available for shipping by the time you receive this issue of PLN. The book is the most detailed and comprehensive guide to the PLRA and a must-have for anyone litigating a case against a prison or jail on behalf of a prisoner. Note we have a lower discount price for prisoners.

I would like to thank everyone who donated to our annual fundraiser, as we need your support to keep doing all the work we do on behalf of prisoners and their families. We gratefully accept donations year-round and welcome monthly donors and sustainers.

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