One of the reasons I snagged this particular article was because I wanted to show off Prison Photography's site, but it also links to a few other places worth mentioning, like Change.org (that's the link to the petition posted in the column at the left of this page).
Prison Legal News has been out in front on a lot of the censorship stuff because they distribute both their paper and books to prisoners across the country. They clearly choose the small number books they carry carefully - it's an excellent selection for anyone just developing a prisoner activist's library. The editor, Paul Wright, has authored or edited several - he and Tara Herivel have aggressively investigated and reported on the private prison industry in particular, producing Prison Profiteers, and Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America's Poor, among other things.
The PLN itself is great investigative journalism, and keeps folks updated on things like prisoner rights, censorship, abuse, and major legislative proposals. The site is a good resource for non-subscribers, with accessible articles, sample issues, and an extensive page of useful links. PLN is geared towards empowering prisoners - I suspect it's a favorite publication among "Jailhouse Lawyers".
They have also aggressively and successfully challenged prisons and other entities in the courts over prisoner rights - like the First Amendment and matters rasied by the banning of "Women Behind Bars" in Texas. In this regard, they don't just publish and distribute prison legal news, they help make it through their advocacy and activism. At the very least, it's a good cause to support.
So, as soon as I can, I'm getting a print subscription ($30). At $24/year for prisoners it would also make an excellent Christmas gift.
For internet users, a premium price gets access to a deep searchable database of resources and previous articles and briefs for on-line subscribers, which would be worth the price if I had it because of the research I do for blogging. Whether or not you think can afford the internet subscription, at least do the 3-day trial . Sign up when you'll have the time and are focused enough to really do good research - take advantage of the access, and you'll get a good sense for how much you might use the site in the future; then you can decide what kind of subscription to get.
Here's the bit on the book-banning in Texas.
Silja Talvi’s excellent book Women Behind Bars.
It turns out the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also noticed it. They banned it – along with another book, Perpetual Prison Machine by Joel Dyer. Both books are distributed by Prison Legal News – a phenomenal non-profit based here in Seattle that educates America’s incarcerated class on its human and legal rights.
Prison Legal News has launched a lawsuit against staff and senior officials of the TDCJ. Money is not as issue here, principle is. “PLN is seeking compensatory, punitive and nominal damages plus declaratory and injunctive relief for violation of its rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as attorney fees and costs.”
“It is a sad commentary when government officials censor books sent to prisoners – particularly books that deal with prisoners’ rights and conditions in our nation’s prisons,” stated PLN editor Paul Wright. “Apparently, the TDCJ prefers that prisoners remain uninformed about issues that directly affect them. We believe this is a poor rationale for censorship.”
WHAT TO DO
Visit Change.org and read my brief article.
Download the full PLN lawsuit (PDF).
Sign the petition to the TDCJ for reversal of their censorship policy.