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PLN files censorship suit against Sacramento County

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2011.
Press release - PLN files censorship suit against Sacramento County 2011


Prison Legal News – For Immediate Release

April 5, 2011

Publisher Files Censorship Suit Against Sacramento County

Sacramento, California – Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, filed a lawsuit today in U.S. District Court against Sacramento County and Sheriff Scott Jones. The suit alleges unconstitutional censorship at the county jail in violation of the First Amendment.

In the lawsuit, PLN asks the court to enjoin Sacramento County from censoring its monthly publication and correspondence mailed to prisoners at the jail. PLN publishes and distributes Prison Legal News, a monthly journal of corrections news and analysis regarding prisoners’ rights, court rulings, management of prison and jail facilities, and conditions of confinement. PLN has approximately 7,000 subscribers nationwide, including prisoners, attorneys, journalists, public libraries, judges, corrections professionals and other members of the public.

Since at least April 2010, the Sacramento County Jail has been censoring PLN’s monthly publication by refusing to deliver the publication to prisoners held in custody. In February 2011, for example, the jail censored Prison Legal News and frustrated PLN’s attempt to deliver the February issue to thirty-eight prisoners at the jail.

"Prior to April 2010, we’d been able to deliver our materials to prisoners in Sacramento County without a problem, but there’s been no explanation for the change in policy," said PLN editor Paul Wright. "Prisoners in jail, many of whom are awaiting trial, have not been convicted and are presumed innocent until proven guilty, have a right under the First Amendment to receive reading material, and publishers such as PLN also have a First Amendment right to send our publications to prisoners. County officials should not be in the business of unconstitutional censorship or deciding what people can and cannot read."

According to the complaint, Sacramento County Jail policy does not provide due process notice or an opportunity for either the sender or the recipient to appeal the jail’s censorship decisions. The ostensible reason for censoring PLN’s publications is that they contain staples, stickers and/or labels, although other publications containing staples, stickers and/or labels are being delivered to prisoners.

"Jail officials do not have the right to censor books and magazines simply because they dislike the publisher," said lead counsel Sanford Jay Rosen, of the San Francisco-based law firm of Rosen, Bien & Galvan. "The actions of the jail officials are not only unconstitutional, but make it more difficult for prisoners to receive information that can assist them in making a successful transition to society after they are released from custody."

PLN is seeking injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants, as well as attorney fees and costs of the litigation.

The case is Prison Legal News v. County of Sacramento,, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Case No. 2:11-cv-00907. PLN is represented by attorneys Sanford Jay Rosen, Ernest Galvan and Blake Thompson of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP in San Francisco.


Prison Legal News (PLN) is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center. HRDC, founded in 1990 and based in Brattleboro, Vermont, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes PLN, 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.

For further information, please contact:

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

Ernest Galvan
Rosen, Bien & Galvan
315 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 433-6830