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About the Human Rights Defense Center

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) was originally founded in 1990 in Washington state as Prisoners' Legal News (later Prison Legal News). The initial purpose of the organization was to publish a monthly newsletter of the same name to give a voice to prisoners, their families and others affected by criminal justice policies in Washington. By 1993 the newsletter had grown into a magazine with nationwide news coverage and circulation.

In 1996 the organization received a small grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center which enabled HRDC to hire its first full-time employee. The following year, with the publication of The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry, an anthology of articles published in Prison Legal News (PLN), HRDC began distributing books that critique the criminal justice system as well as self-help and reference books of interest to prisoners. Two other anthologies of PLN articles have since been published, Prison Nation (2002) and Prison Profiteers (2007). HRDC has also published two of its own books -- The Prisoners' Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the United States and Canada (2009) and The Habeas Citebook: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel (2010).

HRDC currently distributes around 50 different criminal justice, legal and self-help titles, and continues to publish Prison Legal News, which has become a 72-page monthly publication with subscribers in all 50 states and internationally. In addition to publishing, HRDC engages in prisoner rights litigation in federal courts across the United States.

From the modest beginnings of a prison-based newsletter with a $50 budget and an all-volunteer grassroots base, HRDC has grown into a national 501(c)(3) organization with 10 full-time employees, including three staff attorneys. HRDC is based in Lake Worth, Florida and has offices in Seattle, Washington and Nashville, Tennessee.

For more information about HRDC's work and accomplishments please review our annual reports.