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Articles by Paul Wright

Milestone: Thirty Years of Prison Legal News and the Human Rights Defense Center

Instead, we will do a national virtual event on December 10 to mark both International Human Rights Day and our 30th anniversary. Yale law professor and author James Forman Jr. will be our keynote speaker. Details on the event and how to attend virtually are inside this issue.

When I started PLN in 1990 I was 25 years old and three years into a life sentence. The United States had a million people locked in cages. Today, I am 55 years old and have been out of prison for 17 years, and the United States has around 2.5 million people locked in cages. In addition to having a lot more prisoners, living conditions, by every ...

From the Editor

While we cannot do an in-person event this year as we had planned, a virtual event allows us to reach our supporters and lets more people know about the Human Rights Defense Center’s history in ways that doing events tied to a city do not. Author and activist Victoria Law will be the master of ceremonies for the event and Yale Law Professor James Forman Jr. will be our keynote speaker. I will be speaking at the event as well. If you do not ...

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 ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

COVID-19 has not gone away; indeed it seems to be worsening in prisons and jails around the country. But this month’s cover story on prisons in Iceland serves as a reminder that not all countries have, or want, a police state that cages one percent of its adult population on any given day. Reporting on prisons or jails in almost any industrialized country and comparing its practices to those of the United States is not an apples to oranges comparison so much as an apples to laundry detergent comparison: there simply isn’t one.

It is no surprise that we do not hear of anyone wanting to emulate the U.S. criminal justice system. When I speak with people from other countries, especially in Europe, there tends to be a mixture of disgust and amazement when it comes to the U.S. police state. With the rise of the internet, news indeed travels faster than ever before. Between 2010 and 2019, a total of 25 people were killed by police in England. The U.S., by contrast, does not value the lives of its citizens enough to even bother counting them. Recently, media outlets have taken to tallying up police killings ...

From the Editor

As summer wears on, the pandemic continues to take its toll behind bars. Our cover story reports the latest developments on COVID-19 in prisons and jails. Thanks to all the prisoner readers who are sending us reports and updates about coronavirus in their facilities. We are especially interested in learning about serious illnesses and deaths as those are numbers likely to be concealed or underplayed by the government.

It appears likely that COVID-19 will be with us, in prison and out, for the foreseeable future and the political class in this country has deemed prisoners, especially convicted ones, to be expendable. To date, very little in the way of prison releases or other measures to ensure safety are happening. We are monitoring all the litigation and political and news developments around the country and will continue reporting on them in PLN. Dr. Michael Cohen continues providing us with the latest medical information related to COVID-19 in detention facilities and discussing treatment and prevention options.

We will be covering COVID-19 in PLN as long as it remains a prison health and litigation issue. We are also aware that all the other issues around detention facilities, such as ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

With COVID-19 still dominating prison and jail related news, it is worth keeping in mind that detention conditions did not miraculously improve because of a pandemic. Rather, already bad conditions have gotten steadily worse, inadequate and negligent medical care systems have been overtaxed, and their already limited capacity has been exceeded.

Meanwhile, releases of convicted prisoners at the state and federal levels due to COVID-19 have been small and slow. It appears the political class in this country, and the managers who run their prisons and jails, have confirmed that prisoners are viewed as expendable. Whatever happens, their jobs are secure, they seem to have concluded. It remains to be seen what the actual mortality rate of COVID-19 will be in prisons and jails, and if officials will accurately report it.

PLN will continue covering COVID-
19 related developments as they occur, and it appears we are in for a long-term period of reporting on the topic. Our news and legal reporting have already begun to reflect that.

Some readers will note that court decisions we reported in the last issue of PLN have already been reversed. The good news is appellate courts are moving quickly on ...

From the Editor

It seems like an eternity since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S. in January of this year and the first deaths began occurring in March. Now, each day brings grim news for American prisoners. Everyone I know in the prisoner rights community is working long, hard hours ...

From the Editor

Prison Legal News launched in May 1990, making this the thirtieth anniversary issue. I hand typed five pages, half the issue, in my maximum-security prison cell and Ed Mead, my co-editor, typed the other half in his cell. We sent it out to a volunteer to photocopy ...

From the Editor

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. This is one of the very few times in our 30 year history where we have changed a cover story midproduction after the magazine has already been laid out, but that is what we are doing now. Our original cover story ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Anyone who has been arrested by the federal government can attest to the experience of being held in custody by the U.S. Marshals Service. While the federal Bureau of Prisons operates a few pretrial detention centers (aka jails) in large cities, the vast majority of federal defendants ...