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PLN files federal censorship suit against Michigan jail

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2011.
Press release - PLN files federal censorship suit against Michigan jail 2011

PRESS RELEASE

Prison Legal News – For Immediate Release

August 9, 2011

Publisher Files Lawsuit Over Postcard-Only Policy at Livingston County Jail

Detroit, MI – Prison Legal News (PLN), a non-profit monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues and a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, today filed a lawsuit against Livingston County, Michigan and the county's sheriff, Bob Bezotte, alleging First Amendment violations due to improper censorship at the Livingston County Jail. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division.

PLN claims that the county has "adopted and implemented written mail policies and practices that unconstitutionally restrict correspondence to prisoners via postcards only...." Livingston County is one of several jurisdictions that have adopted mail policies that only permit prisoners to send or receive correspondence via postcards. Such policies have been successfully challenged in other states.

According to PLN’s complaint, PLN sent sample copies of its monthly publication, as well as a book titled "Protecting Your Health and Safety," and subscription and book flyers, to fifty-six prisoners at the Livingston County Jail between January 17 and June 15, 2011. All of PLN’s correspondence was allegedly censored pursuant to the facility’s postcard-only policy.

"Restricting the ability of prisoners – including many who have not been convicted and are presumed innocent – to effectively communicate with their families and other people outside the jail by limiting all correspondence to postcards is unconscionable," said PLN editor Paul Wright. "The postcard-only policy also violates the rights of publishers, including PLN, to communicate with and distribute reading material to prisoners."

PLN is seeking a declaration that the jail’s postcard-only policy violates PLN’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs. The complaint further requests a preliminary injunction to prevent the defendants from "continuing to violate the Constitution."

The case is Prison Legal News v. Livingston County Sheriff Bob Bezotte, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, Case No. 11-cv-13460.


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Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Brattleboro, Vermont, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has almost 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. PLN is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center.

For further information, please contact:

Paul Wright, Editor
Prison Legal News
P.O. Box 2420
Brattleboro, VT 05303
(802) 257-1342
pwright@prisonlegalnews.org

Attorney Thomas M. Loeb
32000 Northwestern Hwy, Ste 170
Farmington Hills, MI 48334-1507
(248) 851-2020
tmloeb1@mich.com

Attorney Brian J. Prain
The Law Office of Brian J. Prain, PLLC
28475 Greenfield Rd., Ste 121
Southfield, MI 48076
(248) 763 0641
brian@prainlaw.com