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Articles by Paul Wright

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s cover story about prison education seems like a well-worn but broken record. In 1994, President Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which, as I noted at the time, was the biggest foray by the federal government into so-called anti-crime legislation ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s issue of PLN is dedicated to the memory and work of Randall “Randy” Berg, a long-time advocate for prisoners’ rights and human rights who died on April 10, 2019 at the age of 70 following a struggle with ALS. I was fortunate to ...

PLN Interviews Randy Berg, Director of the Florida Justice Institute

by Paul Wright

On December 27, 2018, Prison Legal News editor Paul Wright interviewed Randall C. Berg, Jr., executive director of the Florida Justice Institute (FJI) in Miami. It is fair to say that no one has done more for Florida prisoners in that state’s history than Randy. He was ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Welcome to the 29th anniversary issue of Prison Legal News! We published the first issue of PLN on May Day in 1990, which was 348 issues ago. At the time PLN consisted of 10 hand-typed pages and the inaugural issue was sent to 75 prospective ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s cover story reports on the landmark First Step Act, which is the first criminal justice reform bill in decades that might actually benefit some prisoners. Until now, the cavalcade of criminal justice legislation that has emerged from Congress over the past 200 years has been ...

In Memoriam: Jane Kahn (1954-2018)

by Paul Wright

For the past 15 years, the San Francisco law firm of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP has represented Prison Legal News and its parent organization, the Human Rights Defense Center, in censorship and public records cases in California, Nevada and Arizona, and co-counseled other cases with ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s cover story reports on the long-familiar use of prison slave labor to perform dangerous, dirty work that few others in the U.S. are willing to do – and for slave wages at that. Ironically, with the current political attacks on undocumented immigrants who normally ...

Obituary: Rick Anderson, 1941-2018

by Paul Wright

On Christmas Eve 2018, PLN contributing writer Rick Anderson died of congestive heart failure at his daughter’s home. Rick was a long-time journalist. He grew up in Hoquiam, Washington and went to work as a copy boy at the Post-Intelligencer in Seattle. That started his career in ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

We have long reported on the phenomenon of jailhouse lawyers and other prisoners who, upon release, have gone to law school and become attorneys. While that phenomenon has been occurring for decades, it appears to be picking up – perhaps because there are simply more people going ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Prison Legal News published its first issue in May 1990. The month before that, Washington became the first state in the nation to enact a civil commitment process for sex offenders and to create a sex offender registry. Those laws were passed shortly after a mentally ill sex offender named Earl Kenneth Shriner kidnapped, raped and mutilated an eight-year-old boy in Tacoma, and Gene Raymond Kane, a sex offender on work release in Seattle, kidnapped, raped and killed a woman named Diane Ballasiotes. Diane’s mother, Ida Ballasiotes, became a victims’ rights advocate who was later elected to the state legislature, where she headed the misnamed House Corrections Committee. We reported all this at the time in PLN, and almost 30 years later we have seen sex offender registries spread nationally, with civil commitment laws being enacted by almost half the states.

All the critiques we made in the 1990s when these statutes were first picking up steam have pretty much been borne out. We have repeatedly noted that civil commitment for the purported purpose of providing sex offender treatment has been a giant lie perpetrated by the government and willingly believed by the judiciary. After all, if ...