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Lawsuit alleges Florida Department of Corrections impounded publications that inform inmates of their rights

Creative Loafing Tampa, Aug. 18, 2021. https://www.cltampa.com/news-views/florida-news...

The Human Rights Defense Center publishes Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News, which are sent monthly to subscribers including inmates, according to the lawsuit.

Alleging censorship, a non-profit group has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Florida Department of Corrections of unconstitutionally impounding publications that were going to inmates.

The Lake Worth-based Human Rights Defense Center filed the lawsuit last week in South Florida. It names as defendants Florida Corrections Secretary Mark Inch and Everglades Correctional Institution Warden Jose Colon.

The Human Rights Defense Center publishes Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News, which are sent monthly to subscribers including inmates, according to the lawsuit.

It also publishes the “Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual,” a book dealing with prison disciplinary hearings.

The lawsuit said the Department of Corrections has “consistently impounded” the publications in many prisons and alleges that it has violated constitutional First Amendment and due-process rights. “All three publications exist primarily to apprise prisoners of their rights,” the lawsuit said. “All three publications comprise political speech and social commentary, which are entitled to the highest protection afforded by the First Amendment.”

The lawsuit is the latest move in years of legal wrangling about alleged censorship of Prison Legal News.

In 2018, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the department on First Amendment arguments. That decision, at least in part, stemmed from advertisements in the publication.

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