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HRDC/PLN receives SPJ's annual First Amendment Award

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2013.
Press release - HRDC/PLN receives SPJ's annual First Amendment Award 2013


Human Rights Defense Center
For Immediate Release

July 25, 2013

Human Rights Defense Center Receives First Amendment Award from Society of Professional Journalists

Lake Worth, FL – Today, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization which is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism, upholding high standards of ethics in that field and protecting First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and the press, announced the Human Rights Defense Center as the recipient of the SPJ’s annual First Amendment Award.

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), based in Lake Worth, Florida, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the human rights of people held in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC’s monthly magazine, Prison Legal News (PLN), has published continuously for the past 23 years and reports on criminal justice news and legal developments with an emphasis on prison labor, prison privatization, and misconduct and corruption by corrections officials.

PLN has been repeatedly censored by prisons and jails nationwide, resulting in PLN and HRDC filing numerous lawsuits to protect their rights under the First Amendment. Currently, ten state Departments of Correction are under court orders and/or consent decrees in PLN suits, as well as a number of county jails.

“The organization’s advocacy and legal action has resulted in court victories for publishers and hundreds of thousands of prisoners all over the U.S.,” the SPJ noted.

HRDC was nominated for the SPJ’s First Amendment Award by Ian Urbina, Washington correspondent for the New York Times. Prior recipients of the award have included Supreme Court Justices William Brennan and William Douglas.

“It is a monumental challenge to defend First Amendment rights outside prison walls, where people often have access to resources such as legal assistance and the press. Defending First Amendment rights for the captive population of U.S. prisoners is a multilayered struggle that is both unpopular and underreported – even when it involves the core First Amendment issue of how and to what extent the government can restrict what its citizens may read. This transcends the fact that those citizens are incarcerated, as there is no footnote to the First Amendment that excludes people who are held in prisons, jails or other detention facilities,” Mr. Urbina stated
in his nomination letter.

“HRDC is greatly honored to be recognized for this prestigious award by the Society of Professional Journalists,” said Paul Wright, executive director and founder of the Human Rights Defense Center. “Someday we hope to live in a country that respects the freedom of the press, where our publications are not censored because we criticize the government’s routine violation of fundamental human rights. Until then, we will continue to demand that the constitutional rights of the independent media be respected.”

HRDC will be recognized at the President’s Installation Banquet at the SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism conference on August 26, 2013. The SPJ’s press release on HRDC’s receipt of the First Amendment Award is available online at:


The Human Rights Defense Center, founded in 1990 and based in Lake Worth, Florida, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting the human rights of people held in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes Prison Legal News (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 around 7,000 subscribers 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, Executive Director
Human Rights Defense Center
(561) 360-2523 (office)
(802) 275-8594 (cell)

Alex Friedmann, Associate Director
Human Rights Defense Center
Nashville, Tennessee office
(615) 495-6568 (cell)