Florida Department of Corrections Seeks to Ban Prison Legal News
Date:  12-26-2014

Fred Grimm says it’s not the ads that upset the Florida DOC, it’s the articles
Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” He wasn’t talking about several legal battles to keep the well respected news magazine Prison Legal News out of a correctional facility, again, but his saying surely fits.

It seems that sheriffs’ departments and other departments of correction have not learned that even prisoners have first amendment rights (see Reentry Central "First Amendment Rights for Prisoners: Why Don’t Sheriffs Get It?,” April 15, 2011).

The Miami Herald reports that in early January the Florida Department of Corrections will go to court to try to get Prison Legal News (PLN) banned from its prisons. The publication is almost required reading in prison and jails.

To those in prison, PLN often provides a glimmer of hope that there has been a recent court ruling that will support their petition for post-conviction relief. Each month PLN publishes the latest legal news that those behind bars might find useful. New case laws, rulings and other information that might help a person be released or achieve a sentence reduction are crammed into a 64-page magazine that is available by subscription to people in prison, and to those who have an interest in criminal justice.

PLS is an important staple of a prisoner’s life. The magazine is eagerly awaited at mail call and is read and passed on to others until it is dog-eared and tattered. The legal news inside each issue is invaluable for those without paid lawyers. For those representing themselves, PLN is the go-to legal resource.

But the publication seems to scare the Florida DOC. It is using an excuse that some of the ads in PLN “represent subversive threats to prison security.” But Fred Grimm writes in the Herald:

It’s the articles that the DOC wants to keep away from prisoner eyes. In its lawsuit against the Department of Corrections, the monthly magazine describes its mission as “public education, advocacy and outreach on behalf of, and for the purpose of assisting, prisoners who seek legal redress for infringements of their constitutionally guaranteed and other basic human rights.”

And that can be frightening to some.

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