FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Arizona: Alessandra Soler Meetze, ACLU of Arizona, (602) 773-6006 (office) firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington: Paul Wright, Prison Legal News, (802) 257-1342,
Phoenix, AZ – Prison Legal News (PLN), represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU) and the law firm of Rosen, Bien & Galvan LLP, today filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Pinal County Jail policy that prohibits inmates from receiving any magazines, hardcover books or letters of more than one page in length. The lawsuit, which was filed against Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and Pinal County, argues this “postcard-only” policy amounts to censorship and prevents inmates from receiving Prison Legal News, a non- profit monthly journal that reports on corrections news and prisoners’ rights issues.
“Publishers have a well-established First Amendment right to send their publications and books to prisoners, and it is unfortunate that rather than respect the rights of publishers to communicate with inmates Sheriff Babeu continues to try to defend the indefensible by banning our books and magazines," said Paul Wright editor of PLN, which distributes approximately 40 book titles including self-help, educational and criminal justice-related publications.
According to the complaint, paperback books (limited to 3) are the only exception to the policy and those must be from “an approved publisher.” Over the past six months, jail officials have refused to deliver several PLN publications, including Prison Legal News and other informational brochures, citing “not allowed,” “only 1-page letters allowed,” or “not from an approved publisher,” and have also failed to deliver copies of PLN’s paperback books. The materials provide inmates with information on matters of concern, ranging from addressing their basic health and safety needs to litigating federal civil rights claims.
“As implemented by Sheriff Babeu, the postcard-only policy is clearly unconstitutional and serves as an excuse to censor books and magazines for no good reason,” added ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Dan Pochoda. “Jail officials who are serious about lowering recidivism and increasing public safety recognize that cutting inmates off from the outside world and denying them access to periodicals is counterproductive.”
PLN is asking the court to order Sheriff Babeu to cease the unconstitutional practice of censoring PLN and limiting inmate mail to short messages on postcards, and to compensate PLN for past and continuing injuries caused by the censorship. The case is Prison Legal News v. Babeu, U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. In addition to Pochoda, PLN also is represented by Ernest Galvan and Kenneth M. Walczak of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP in San Francisco, and Lance Weber, in-house counsel for the non-profit Human Rights Defense Center, the parent organization of Prison Legal News.
Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), founded in 1990 with offices in Brattleboro, Vermont, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes Prison Legal News, a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has approximately 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website (www.prisonlegalnews.org) that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents.
The complaint is available on-line at: www.acluaz.org.
--American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
of Arizona - Media Relations Office
P.O. Box 17148
Phoenix, AZ 85011
Tel: 602-650-1854 Fax: 602-650-1376