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PLN sues Nevada DOC over censorship

Reno Gazette-Journal, Jan. 1, 2000.
PLN sues Nevada DOC over censorship - Reno Gazette-Journal 2000

Reno Gazette-Journal

July 13, 2000 Thursday

Prisoner-publisher sues Nevada officials

By Mike Henderson
RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL

A Washington state inmate who publishes a prisoner-oriented newsletter has filed suit against Nevada prison officials claiming they have illegally banned his publication.

The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Reno for Rollin Wright by lawyer Donald York Evans, working with the American Civil Liberties Union on the case.

Wright seeks a preliminary injunction preventing prison officials from stopping distribution of the publication Prison Legal News in Nevada prisons.

Deputy Attorney General Joe Ward said his office has not seen the lawsuit and cannot comment on it until it has been reviewed. The Nevada Department of Prisons referred calls to the attorney general's office.

The suit contends prison officials have "arbitrarily and capriciously decided that prisoners in the Nevada Department of Prisons shall no longer receive the PLN. This policy has sought to prevent and in fact prevents prisoners from reading news and analysis about corrections and other social and political issues.

"Rather than further a legitimate penological objective, however, this practice amounts to a blatant First Amendment violation."

Attached to the suit is an Aug. 3 memorandum to Warden Sherman Hatcher at the Southern Desert Correctional Center near Las Vegas from John Slansky, assistant director of operations for the prison system.

"The publication Prison Legal News is being sent to some inmates," the memorandum said. "It is a newsletter published and edited by two Washington inmates. Inmate newsletters are prohibited by AD 41-95," a reference to an administrative directive.

According to the suit, Prison Legal news was first published in May 1990 and since then has had subscribers in prison systems in all 50 states and in the federal prison system.

In September and October of last year, Nevada prisoners began complaining of not receiving their subscriptions and the Seattle-based newsletter began getting copies of the publication returned and stamped "unauthorized mail," the suit contends.

The publication has been distributed in some Nevada prison for more than 10 years, the suit contends, and "The fact that no cases of violence or unrest have been attributed to this dissemination of PLN does much to discredit any anticipated justification for this censorship."

An ACLU news release contends the publication is a "monthly journal of corrections, news and analyses. It has over 3,500 subscribers in the United States and abroad, including judges, attorneys and prisoners."