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Articles by Paul Wright

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Welcome to the last issue of PLN for 2017. We have had an exciting year with many notable accomplishments. By now everyone on PLN’s mailing list should have received the first issue of Criminal Legal News, and if you are interested in criminal case law, ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

By now all PLN subscribers should have received our fundraiser mailing which includes our 2016 annual report and details our many activities, ranging from publishing and litigation to advocacy and media outreach. This provides a great overview of the depth and breadth of everything we do. We ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Over the past 27 years we have reported extensively on abuses in local criminal justice systems in the United States, including jails, to the point that they are more ongoing sagas of abuse and corruption that we update with the latest developments. This month’s cover story on ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

The past 40 years have seen a massive rise in the use of solitary confinement throughout the United States as a means of psychological torture to destroy people. As federal courts enjoined official means of physical torture (prisoners were being flogged in the yard of the Tennessee ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

As the summer months wear on we are again reporting on the ongoing outrage of American prisons that are deliberately built without air conditioning in some of the hottest parts of the country. As an article in this issue of PLN notes, the death toll from heat ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

For the past 30 years, as mass incarceration rates have skyrocketed, so has the number of prisoners infected with hepatitis C (HCV). This is in part because so many prisoners are current or former intravenous drug users, and so much time and energy is spent arresting and ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

One of the constants in PLN’s coverage of criminal justice issues since our inception in 1990 has been the disparate, two-tier system of justice in the United States: one system for the wealthy, privileged and politically connected, and another for the poor and unconnected.

In most ...

From the Editor

This issue marks the 27th anniversary of Prison Legal News and our parent organization, the Human Rights Defense Center. When I first started publishing PLN from my prison cell in Clallam Bay, Washington in 1990, I didn’t think I would still be doing so 27 years later. We weren’t sure how long it would last but no one thought it would be this long.

In 1990 the U.S. imprisoned around a million people. By the end of the decade that number had doubled to 2 million and today hovers around the 2.3 million mark, give or take a few thousand. Among the drivers of mass incarceration has been the war on sex offenders. Sadly, PLN has had a front row seat for this unfolding debacle: a month before we began publishing, Washington became the first state to enact civil commitment for sex offenders and a sex offender registry. Three- and two-strike laws would come a few years later. As this issue’s cover story reports, sex offender regulations duly expanded and spread from there.

Today the government spends a huge amount of money – no one really knows how much but certainly in the millions of dollars – to track, ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s cover story, an interview with former CIA officer John Kiriakou, is part of our ongoing series of interviews with interesting people who have experience with the U.S. criminal justice system. The interview with John is around 8,000 words. A longer version, at about 17,000 words, is posted on our website at www.prisonlegalnews.org and covers much more ground – such as the CIA’s covert operations, kidnapping and torture programs, and John’s prosecution. It explores the intersections between human rights overseas and torture at home, and the federal government’s war on whistleblowers and leakers.

Prior PLN interviews have been with people as diverse as Noam Chomsky, Conrad Black, Jeff Deskovic and Danny Trejo. Each has had a unique view of the flaws and problems with our nation’s criminal justice system. I will continue conducting these interviews as part of our process of expanding what passes for dialogue in the U.S. The interview with John was done before the presidential election, and it remains to be seen if the government’s attacks on the media and whistleblowers will subside or increase.

I read about John’s case when he was convicted and sent him a subscription to Prison Legal News ...

From the Editor

This issue’s cover story on release debit cards continues our coverage of this relatively recent phenomenon which exploits prisoners and arrestees by charging them fees to access their own money and all too often takes all or most of their funds when they are released from prison or jail. The ...