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Articles by Paul Wright

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 to get prisoners released or ensure some measure of safety to them at every level: state, local, federal, immigration and juvenile. 

PLN is providing coverage about what is happening at each level. There is such a huge amount of news and information on COVID-19 and detention facilities that simply reviewing it is a major challenge.

I have been reporting on prison and jail news for a little over 30 years now. Ken Silverstein, PLN’s managing editor, brings around 35 years of news reporting experience tothe table. Neither one of us can recall the media so relentlessly focused on a single topic as with COVID-19. We’re simply not finding much as we scour news wires for criminal justice stories that areunrelated to COVID-19. 

We are publishing stories that were in our article pipeline before the pandemic hit as we think it is important to remember that pandemic or not, the beatings, medical ...

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 and mail to our aspiring mailing list of 75 people we hoped would subscribe.

For the past 20 years, the cover story of PLN that marks each five-year anniversary has our history from the beginning in 1990 to the present, along with a summary of our First Amendment and public records litigation. That is what we were planning to do for this issue. And then COVID-19 erupted. We will be reporting on COVID-​19 for the duration of the pandemic, which we expect, tragically, to get much, much worse for prisoners. Hopefully, by the end of the year we can run that PLN 30th anniversary story.

One of the challenges of running a monthly magazine is timeliness. In our 30-year history our focus has always been on getting the story right. We have seen that most of the time when disasters strike, whatever initial news coverage that comes out turns out ...

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 ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s cover story reports onWellpath, formerly known as Correct Care Solutions, a hedge fund-owned private prison health care company. PLN has long reported on prison medical care in general and privatized care in particular, with what is now a lengthy history of medical neglect, deaths, maimings ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

I want to thank everyone who has donated to HRDC’s annual fundraiser. Of course, anytime is a good time to donate and we are always in need of funding and support, not just at the end of the year. I would like to encourage readers to become ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

In 1994, President Clinton ended Pell grant eligibility for prisoners in legislation spearheaded by then-senator, and now presidential candidate, Joe Biden. That pretty much signaled the end of what little higher education existed in U.S. prisons, as state legislatures quickly followed suit to terminate whatever modest state ...