Publisher Files Censorship Suit Against Jail in Johnson County, Kansas
Olathe, KS – Earlier today, the non-profit organization Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Kansas to challenge censorship by the New Century Adult Detention Center (the “Jail”) in Olathe, Kansas. The complaint names the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff Calvin Hayden and various jail employees as defendants.
HRDC publishes two monthly educational publications, Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News, which were mailed to prisoners at the Jail along with legal books and other educational materials. According to the complaint, the Jail maintains mail policies and practices that prohibit mailed books and magazines, and has failed to provide HRDCnotice and an opportunity to appeal the broad and unconstitutional censorship.
Since July 2020, PLN has mailed at least 58 publications and other mail items to prisoners at the Jail that were censored by jail officials; sometimes the issues were sent back marked “Return to Sender”, “Refused”, or “Not Approved”, among others. HRDC was not afforded an opportunity to appeal the Jail’s censorship decisions.
In the complaint, HRDC alleges violations of its constitutional rights under the free speech clause of the First Amendment and under the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to due process. As a result of these rejections, HRDC claims that it has suffered damages including “the suppression of HRDC’s speech; the impediment of HRDC’s ability to disseminate its political message;” and “frustration of HRDC’s non-profit organizational mission.”
“HRDC’s books and magazines inform prisoners about educational opportunities, their constitutional rights, and means for self-improvement while incarcerated,” noted HRDC General Counsel Daniel Marshall. “Banning these publications from reaching those who are in jail is an affront to the First Amendment, as well as counterproductive to the goals of security and rehabilitation.”
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, declaratory relief and damages against the defendants, as well as attorney fees and costs.
HRDC is represented by attorneys Max Kautsch of Kautsch Law, LLC and Bruce Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP, and by HRDC general counsel Daniel Marshall and staff attorney Eric Taylor. The case is Human Rights Defense Center v. Board of Commissioners of Johnson County, Kansas; et al, D. Ks, Case No. 2:20-cv-02447.
The Human Rights Defense Center, founded in 1990 and based in Lake Worth Beach, Florida, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes Prison Legal News (PLN) and Criminal Legal News (CLN), two monthly magazines that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has thousands of 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.
For further information, please contact:
Paul Wright, Executive Director
Human Rights Defense Center
Daniel Marshall, General Counsel
Human Rights Defense Center