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PLN sues Nevada DOC over censorship

Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jan. 1, 2000.
PLN sues Nevada DOC over censorship - Las Vegas Review-Journal 2000

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Nevada)

July 12, 2000 Wednesday FINAL EDITION


Publisher suing to get journal back to prisoners

By Carri Geer

The publisher of Prison Legal News filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday that seeks to stop Nevada prison officials from keeping the monthly journal away from inmates.

Donald Evans, a cooperating attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Reno on behalf of the publisher, Rollin Wright. The document claims the prison policy violates the First Amendment.

"What we're dealing with is core political speech in a well-respected journal that is read by judges, lawyers and policy-makers, among others," said Gary Peck, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada.

According to the lawsuit, Prison Legal News is a nonprofit corporation with offices in Seattle, and its publication has more than 3,500 subscribers in the United States and abroad.

The journal circulated within Nevada prisons for years, according to a statement from the ACLU, but certain facilities began refusing delivery to inmates in September.

Peck said representatives of the ACLU and Prison Legal News made repeated attempts to discuss the issue with representatives of the Nevada Department of Prisons and the state attorney general's office before filing the lawsuit.

"They simply refused to have a serious discussion about the issues that were at stake," Peck said. "It is that attitude, as much as anything, that is so troubling. It serves no one's purpose to stonewall the issue, which is basically what they did."

Howard Skolnik, a spokesman with the Department of Prisons, declined to comment on the lawsuit. He said prison officials had not seen it.

Deputy Attorney General Joe Ward also declined to comment on the complaint. He said he had not seen it and was not familiar with the issues.

Ward said prison officials may keep certain materials from coming into their facilities if they believe the materials might jeopardize their ability to maintain discipline and order.

Peck said officials need to come up with a sensible justification for banning Prison Legal News from the state's prisons, "and they simply have not come up with such a justification."

"This is really just about vindictiveness and pettiness," he said. "It is not about a carefully considered effort to develop policies that would enhance the state's ability to run its prisons."