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PLN/HRDC settles censorship suit against Galveston County, TX

Houston Chronicle, Jan. 1, 2011.
PLN/HRDC settles censorship suit against Galveston County, TX - Houston Chronicle 2011

Suit settled, Galveston jail inmates now allowed to read


March 1, 2011, 6:57PM

GALVESTON — The Galveston County Jail will end its policy of keeping books and magazines away from prisoners under a settlement with Prison Legal News, a prison rights magazine that sued Sheriff Freddie Poor last year.

The sheriff also agreed in the settlement reached last week to purchase 17 self-help, educational and legal books and two five-year subscriptions to Prison Legal News' magazine for the jail's law library, where they will be made available to prisoners.

Sheriff's officials were unavailable for comment, but Scott Medlock — attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, which represented Prison Legal News — said the sheriff's office began looking for a way to settle the lawsuit soon after it was filed in July.

"In the end, the sheriff was really reasonable and a good steward of the taxpayers' money," Medlock said.

Prison Legal News sued after learning that the Galveston County Jail banned reading material of any kind for inmates except in special circumstances. The policy violated prisoners' free speech rights, Medlock said.

Medlock said that under long-established law jails can ban some books, such as The Anarchist Cookbook, which has instructions on how to make explosives, but generally cannot ban any publication unless it poses a threat.

Prison Legal News is a monthly magazine with a circulation of about 7,000 nationwide and provides prisoners and prison rights advocates with news about cases involving prisoners' rights. Editor Paul Wright, who brought the lawsuit against the sheriff, founded the magazine in 1990 while a prisoner in Washington state, Medlock said.

The magazine's offices are in Brattleboro, Vt.