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Utah DOC sued over PLN bulk mail ban

Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 1, 1998.
Utah DOC sued over PLN bulk mail ban - Salt Lake Tribune 1998

Salt Lake Tribune (Utah)

June 9, 1998, Tuesday

Prison System Revises Rules For Inmate Reading Material

BY SHEILA R. McCANN THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

Utah Corrections officials have revised their rules for inmate reading materials for the second time this spring, and are handing a second check to civil-rights attorney Brian Barnard for his legal fees.

The latest check, for $20,200, resolves a 1992 lawsuit filed by Barnard on behalf of inmate Michael P. Moore, 41, serving up to life in prison for two counts of murder. Moore sued after he had difficulty receiving Prison Legal News and was denied access to catalogs, Barnard said. Moore was learning French and Japanese and wanted to order foreign-language books and tapes, he said.

New Corrections policies went into effect June 1, making these changes:

-- Inmates can receive catalogs that offer books and tapes. Catalogs were previously banned to prevent inmates from ordering items they are not allowed to possess.

-- The prison's bulk-rate mail policy was clarified to indicate inmates may receive subscriptions and materials from nonprofit organizations via bulk-rate mail.

The policy previously was unclear, and exceptions were not being made for some mail that inmates should have received, Barnard said.

"It's wrong to categorize everything that's sent by bulk-rate mail as junk mail," he said.

The changes led to the out-of-court settlement of Moore's lawsuit, which had been scheduled to go to trial Monday. While the department denied previous policies violated inmates' First Amendment rights, it agreed to pay Barnard's legal fees and costs to end the litigation.

The new policy grants similar changes sought in a new lawsuit filed by inmate Walter J. Thomas in April. Thomas also was not receiving his copies of Prison Legal News, which is sent via bulk-rate mail. While Thomas' demands are now moot, he may seek nominal damages for the copies that were turned away by the prison, Barnard said.

Corrections officials paid Barnard $ 15,000 in attorneys' fees in April to resolve two lawsuits over a proposed ban on sexually explicit magazines and books. While prison officials explained the proposal would ensure such material was kept away from sex offenders, Barnard argued it was overly broad and violated inmates' First Amendment rights.

Moore was convicted of gunning down co-worker Jordan Rasmussen in 1982 and killing delivery man Buddy Booth, who happened upon the scene. Rasmussen was to have replaced Moore as manager of Log Haven restaurant in Mill Creek Canyon.