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Articles by Paul Wright

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

For all the talk of criminal justice reform. the reality of daily life for millions of caged American prisoners is amply summed up this month’s cover story reprinted from the Texas Observer which reports on the death toll of jail prisoners in Texas. Of course, it is ...

From the Editor

This issue of PLN marks our 32nd anniversary. Having published 384 issues since May 1990, we have been reporting on the growth of the American police state for 32 years as its prison and jail population has more than doubled from one million to almost 2.3 million reported in 2020. ...

From the Editor

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 ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s cover story on Wellpath treads a familiar road for PLN readers of how profit-driven medical care has resulted in a huge expense for taxpayers and extremely low quality health care for hundreds of thousands of prisoners around the country. The fundamental flaw is a business ...

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 ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Welcome to the first issue of PLN for the new year, as we enter 2022 and our 32nd year of publication. Last year we published an article in the June edition on the worst sheriffs in America, but like many things, that is a subjective opinion and ...

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 ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

After editing PLN for over 31 years now, it seems like all 370-plus issues of the magazine kind of blend together in my mind like one big, long magazine. A lot of stories don’t have a beginning, middle or an end but rather are like a very, very long play with many scenes in them.

This month’s cover article is one of them. In the very first issue of PLN, May 1990, which myself and PLN’s co-editor at the time, Ed Mead, hand-typed in our respective maximum security prison cells, we reported on the murder of then Oregon DOC director Michael Francke and Gable’s arrest for the murder. Today, 31years later, we are still reporting on Francke’s murder and the rather startling developments behind Gable’s habeas release.

The story is far from over, with prosecutors now appealing the habeas decision. The state’s appeal has been pending for several years now before the 9th circuit federal appeals court. We will report the court’s decision when it is issued. The bigger question of who killed Francke, and why, may never be known. It may turn out to be the story without a conclusive ending, just an enduring ...

Language Matters: Why We Use the Words We Do

by Paul Wright

 

Recent years have seen efforts by a lot of well-meaning people referring to prisoners as “people in prison” or “incarcerated people,” former prisoners as “returning citizens,” “formerly incarcerated people” and more. Pretty much since we started publishing PLN in 1990 we have used the terms prisoners, guards, prisons, jails, ex or former prisoner, etc. In the October 1993 issue of PLN we published an article by Ojore Lutalo, titled Some Food for Thought: Prisoners Are Not Inmates that pretty much set forth our reasoning. Almost 30 years later it is probably time to address the matter again.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Attica massacre which was second largest massacre of people on American soil in the 20th century by government forces. It also ushered in the modern era of prison and penal reform which saw the courts abandon their “hands off” doctrine and begin to enforce the constitution behind bars. In many ways, the government gave up a little bit to keep a lot when it came to its power to control, abuse, oppress and exploit prisoners.

One of the biggest changes was the change in language it used to refer ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

For long time readers of PLN, this month’s issue may seem like déjà vu all over again with its national coverage of prisoners being raped, especially by guards and prison staff. For many years I wrote the “News in Brief” column and would print out the articles I found NIB worthy. At the end of the month I’d go through them and pick the ones to use in the next issue. There were, and still are, a lot of short news articles about prison and jail staff being charged, convicted and sentenced for raping prisoners. I strove for diversity of story topics and didn’t want the NIB column to turn into the “prisoners getting raped” column of PLN. I would pick out a few cases to use in that issue’s NIB and put the rest to the side to use in the following month.

But each month there were more sexual assault stories than I could use so the pile of news articles kept getting bigger. All this was happening without looking for these types of stories, just printing the ones I ran across while reviewing the news wires related to prisons and jails. At ...