For immediate release:
April 23, 2008
Prison Legal News Files First Amendment Lawsuit Against Massachusetts Corrections Officials for Banning It from Selling Books to State Prisoners
Boston, MA – Prison Legal News (PLN), a non-profit publisher and bookseller, today filed a lawsuit in United States District Court in Boston against Corrections Commissioner Harold Clarke, former Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy, and others for banning books from PLN in Massachusetts prisons. PLN distributes books to prisoners in the other 49 states and to those in the federal prison system. Massachusetts, which permits only a handful of "approved vendors" to send books to prisoners, is the only state correctional system that refuses to allow PLN to send books to prisoners.
PLN distributes books and other written materials concerning the legal rights of prisoners and the conditions affecting prisoners. It is the sole distributor of some of these books. PLN distributes the Prisoner Diabetes Handbook free upon request. PLN also publishes a monthly magazine, Prison Legal News.
"Commissioner Clarke claims that improving prisoners' literacy is a priority in his administration, but banning books from Prison Legal News is designed to maintain an illiterate and uninformed prisoner population," said Paul Wright, the editor of Prison Legal News.
The lawsuit alleges that the policy banning PLN from sending books to Massachusetts state prisoners is unconstitutional. PLN seeks an order declaring the policy to be unconstitutional, preventing the defendants from maintaining the policy, and an award of damages and attorney's fees. PLN is represented by Boston attorneys Howard Friedman and David Milton of the Law Offices of Howard Friedman, P.C.
PLN has successfully vindicated the free speech rights of itself and its prisoner subscribers on numerous occasions around the country. Currently seven states operate their prison mail systems under PLN consent decrees, injunctions or both. Jails in three states operate under similar court orders.
PLN Editor Paul Wright can be reached at 802-257-1342 or firstname.lastname@example.org and see www.prisonlegalnews.or..
Attorney Howard Friedman can be reached at 617-742-4100.