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PLN sues Florida DOC over censorship

Miami New Times, Jan. 1, 2011.
PLN sues Florida DOC over censorship - Miami New Times 2011

Prison Legal News Sues Florida Department of Corrections for Banning Its Publication

By Gus Garcia-Roberts Thu., Nov. 17 2011 at 12:58 PM

A national legal magazine for prisoners has filed suit against the Florida Department of Corrections, claiming it's been censored from distributing in Florida prisons due to a vendetta by the state agency.

According to a complaint filed today, the DOC has rejected Prison Legal News off-and-on since 2005 because of conflicts with the nonprofit newsletter's advertisers. PLN features advertisements for pen-pal agencies and third-party phone call providers, services that are banned in Florida prisons for security reasons.

But associate editor -- and former prisoner -- Alex Friedmann says the FDOC is really reacting to the investigative work and legal advice the magazine publishes. "We report on civil rights abuses, including by the Florida DOC," Friedmann says. "The prison system would prefer that [prisoners] not get that information."

PLN's suit was filed with the help of the ACLU of Florida. The magazine will argue that it's being unlawfully censored and that you can't ban a publication simply for advertising products not allowed in prison.

"We're a national news publication," Friedmann says. "We can't tailor our ad content to one particular state. Florida's not banning Time or Newsweek because they have advertisers for cigarettes or cars, though prisoners aren't allowed to have those either."

PLN is used to battling its way into prisons. It filed a similar suit in Arizona, which prompted prison officials there to claim the publication had been accidentally banned.

And it also has an ongoing suit in New York, where PLN has been outlawed because it accepts stamps as payment for subscriptions -- a violation of that state's prison rules.