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Press Release: Publisher Files Censorship Suit Against Jail in St. Joseph County, Indiana

Human Rights Defense Center, June 20, 2022.

South Bend, INToday,the non-profit organization Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) filed suit in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division, to challenge censorship by the St. Joseph County Jail (the “Jail”) in South Bend, Indiana. The complaint names Sheriff William J. Redman as the defendant.

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 implemented mail policies and practices that prohibit parcels that contain mailed books. Also, the Jail rejected magazines unless ordered by subscription, and no “back” issues were allowed to be received.

Since July 2021, HRDC has mailed at least 40 publications and other letter items to prisoners at the Jail that were censored by jail officials; sometimes the items were sent back marked “Return to Sender”; “Facility does not accept packages for inmates”. 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 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 defendant, as well as attorney fees and costs.

HRDC is represented by attorneys Kenneth J. Falk and Stevie J. Pactor with the ACLU of Indiana, and by HRDC General Counsel Daniel Marshall and Staff Attorney Jesse W. Isom. The case is Human Rights Defense Center v. William J. Redman, Sheriff, St. Joseph County, Indiana etal., 3:22-cv-00489.

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 and Criminal Legal News, two monthly magazines that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. Prison Legal News 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

(561) 360-2523

pwright@prisonlegalnews.org

 

Daniel Marshall, General Counsel

Human Rights Defense Center

(561) 360-2523

dmarshall@humanrightsdefensecenter.org

 

Jesse W. Isom, Staff Attorney

Human Rights Defense Center

(561) 360-2523

jwisom@humanrightsdefensecenter.org

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