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PLN settles First Amendment suit against Dallas County Jail

Bayview, Jan. 1, 2007.
PLN settles First Amendment suit against Dallas County Jail - Bayview 2007

Dallas county jail agrees to respect prisoners’ First Amendment right to receive publications

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

The Dallas County Commissioners' Court settled a lawsuit brought by Prison Legal News, a non-profit monthly magazine, Tuesday. Prison Legal News sued the county in federal court in February 2007 because the Dallas County Jail banned inmates from receiving the magazine through the mail.

The jail policy, which banned inmates from possessing all magazines and newspapers, was enacted in March 2006. The stated purpose of the policy was to eliminate clutter in the jail.

The settlement agreement provides the county will allow inmates to receive Prison Legal News and will pay Prison Legal News $9,000 in damages, attorneys' fees and court costs. The jail also agreed to notify the sender when they censor mail sent to jail prisoners. This is at least the third time since the early 1970s that the Dallas county jail has been successfully sued for banning all publications.

"There was never any doubt Dallas County was violating the free speech rights of inmates and publishers," explained Prison Legal News' attorney, Scott Medlock, of the Texas Civil Rights Project. "Publishers have a right under the First Amendment to send their magazines to inmates, and prisoners have a right to read magazines like Prison Legal News."

"Prison Legal News has to fight this type of censorship all over the country," said Paul Wright, Prison Legal News' editor. "Reading and learning about civil rights helps rehabilitate prisoners and prepare them to be better citizens when they are released. I'm glad Dallas County is doing the right thing and respecting the Constitution."

Prison Legal News is a monthly 48-page magazine that deals with the rights of incarcerated individuals. It provides information about court access, disciplinary hearings, prison conditions, excessive force, mail censorship, jail litigation, visitation, telephones, religious freedom, prison rape and the death penalty. It has been published continuously since 1990. Prison Legal News has approximately 7,000 subscribers nationwide.

PLN has frequently had to assert its First Amendment rights to access prisoners and has successfully sued seven entire state prison systems and several jails on censorship issues.

For more information about PLN, visit For more information about this case, contact Scott Medlock at (512) 474-5073 or Paul Wright at (802) 257-1342.

Editor's note: The Bay View has hundreds of subscribers in prison who are sometimes denied their papers by prison officials. The worst offender is the prison at Boscobel, Wisconsin, where Steven Stewart is held and regularly tortured. If you are a subscriber behind enemy lines who occasionally or frequently is denied your Bay View, write to us right away. We may be able to follow Prison Legal News' good example.