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KS county to discuss settlement in PLN censorship suit

Capital-Journal, Jan. 1, 2012.
KS county to discuss settlement in PLN censorship suit - Capital-Journal 2012

County to consider settlement in ACLU lawsuit

Posted: February 7, 2012 - 4:00pm

By Aly Van Dyke

Prison Legal News and similar types of mail will be permitted into the Shawnee County jail should county commissioners Thursday approve a $75,000 settlement with the Vermont magazine.

The monthly magazine, which is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the jail last year after a jail policy blocked inmates from receiving the journal — as well as books and other publications — by mail.

The jail’s policy prohibits receipt of "packages, newspapers, magazines, books or other personal property" that are mailed to the facility.

PLN and ACLU challenged the policy, claiming it violated the magazine’s First and 14th Amendment rights.

Should commissioners approve the settlement, that policy would be tweaked to permit Prison Legal News, renewal notices for the journal, book fliers, order forms/catalogs and "similar types of mail" into the facility. The settlement also would prohibit the jail from enforcing the previous policy and make amendments that create more restrictions on publications protected by the settlement.

The settlement does not prevent or limit the jail from continuing its process of reviewing and disposing of prohibited content.

However, in line with the settlement, Prison Legal News would receive notice every time a publication sent to an inmate is determined to be prohibited. Mail delivered from PLN to inmates not currently at the jail will be returned to PLN, as well.

The settlement is a result of a Jan. 31 court-ordered mediation, which requires a county commission vote to be finalized. The $75,000 would cover damages, attorney fees and costs and must be paid within 30 days of the judgment.

County commissioners Ted Ensley, Shelly Buhler and Mary Thomas will consider the settlement during their 9 a.m. meeting Thursday in the commission chambers in Room B-11 of the county courthouse, 200 S.E. 7th.

County counselor Rich Eckert said he didn’t have a comment.

[remainder of article deals with unrelated issues and has been excluded]