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MA DOC settles book censorship suit filed by Prison Legal News

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2009.
Press release - MA DOC settles book censorship suit filed by Prison Legal News - 2009


Prison Legal News – For Immediate Release

May 14, 2009


Boston, MA – Effective May 12, 2009, the Massachusetts Dept. of Correction (MDOC) agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News, a non-profit organization that publishes a monthly newsletter on criminal justice issues and distributes books on related topics.

Prison Legal News (PLN) brought suit in U.S. District Court on April 23, 2008 following repeated efforts over a 5-year period to be added to the MDOC’s approved vendor list, which would allow PLN to sell or distribute books to Massachusetts prisoners. MDOC officials had offered pretextual excuses for failing to include PLN as an approved vendor.

One week after the lawsuit was filed, MDOC Commissioner Harold Clarke added PLN as an approved vendor; the litigation then continued on damages and policy issues.

The May 12 settlement provides that the MDOC will pay $5,000 to PLN, and that PLN "may distribute to ... inmates any of the publications it currently distributes," subject to prison mail policies. The MDOC agreed to provide notice to all prison superintendents that prisoners may receive PLN’s publications, and to inform all Massachusetts state prisoners that they can order books from PLN. Further, prison officials agreed to notify PLN of the censorship of any future PLN publications sent to MDOC prisoners.

The case is Prison Legal News v. Clarke, U.S. District Court (D. Mass.), Case No. 1:08-10677-RGS. PLN was ably represented by Boston attorneys Howard Friedman and David Milton with the Law Offices of Howard Friedman, P.C.

Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Seattle, Washington, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. PLN publishes a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners' rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has almost 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website ( that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents. PLN is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center. The complaint and settlement are available on PLN’s website.

For further information, please contact:

Paul Wright
Prison Legal News, Editor
P.O. Box 2420
West Brattleboro, VT 05303
(802) 275-8594 office
(802) 257-1342 cell

David Milton
Law Offices of Howard Friedman, P.C.
90 Canal Street, 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 742-4100 office
(617) 742-5858 fax