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PLN files First Amendment suit against Massachusetts DOC over book ban

Boston Herald, Jan. 1, 2008.
PLN files First Amendment suit against Massachusetts DOC over book ban - Boston Herald 2008

Publisher sues Mass. prisons chief claiming censorship ban

By Associated Press

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Local Coverage

A publisher that distributes books on the legal rights of prisoners sued the chief of the state’s prison system yesterday, claiming he is banning its publications in Massachusetts prisons.

Prison Legal News, a nonprofit publisher, alleges Department of Correction Commissioner Harold Clarke and other prison officials refuse to add it to a list of approved vendors who can send books to prisoners.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston seeks unspecified damages and an order prohibiting the Department of Correction from maintaining its approved vendor policy. The lawsuit claims the policy is unconstitutional.

Prison Legal News, an independent, mail-order publisher based in Seattle, publishes a monthly journal of court decisions and other news affecting the rights of prisoners. It also distributes books on inmates’ legal rights, including “Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare and Try a Winning Case.”

The corporation distributed books in Massachusetts prisons until 2003, when a policy was adopted that allowed only approved vendors to send books to prisoners, said Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News. Wright said he has written letters to Clarke and other prison officials asking to be put on the approved list.

“We haven’t gotten anywhere with them,” Wright said.