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PLN files federal censorship lawsuit against Virginia Beach, VA

Washington Post, Jan. 1, 2013.
PLN files federal censorship lawsuit against Virginia Beach, VA - Washington Post 2013

Publication for inmates files lawsuit accusing Virginia Beach sheriff of censorship

By Associated Press, Updated: Tuesday, July 30, 12:13 PM

NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle and 10 of his employees have improperly denied inmates access to a monthly journal that reports on prisoner rights and criminal justice issues, the publication claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court.

Prison Legal News says in the complaint that since April 2012, the sheriff’s office has returned at least 67 magazines or informational brochure packets mailed to prisoners in the Virginia Beach Correctional Center. In some instances, the publication says, issues were censored because the office claimed its advertisements contained “sexually explicit material” even though the ads include no nudity or depiction of sexual acts.

The publication claims the censorship violates its free-speech and due process rights. It is asking for nominal damages as well as an injunction ordering the office to allow receipt of the magazine “unless there is a valid penological justification to censor that particular issue.”

Officials at the sheriff’s office had not seen the lawsuit and were unable to comment, spokeswoman Ashley Lanteigne said.

Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, claims about 7,000 subscribers. In 2010, the publication and the Virginia Department of Corrections settled a case involving a ban in the state prisons.