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PLN files federal censorship suit against GEO Group in Indiana

Indiana Public Media, Dec. 2, 2014.

Publisher Files Federal Complaint Against Prison Company

The publisher of Prison Legal Newsor PLN, has filed a federal complaint after New Castle Correctional Facility staff failed to deliver copies of the magazine to several of its inmates.

The complaint was filed last week in U.S. District Court for Indiana’s Southern District on behalf of the Human Rights Defense Center, the publisher of PLN.

It claims that GEO Group, the Florida-based private prison company that operates the New Castle Correctional Facility, violated the publisher’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by denying inmates access to Prison Legal News—effectively censoring the publication.

GEO claims prisoners were denied delivery because the magazine contains advertisements for pen pal services, which are banned under the Indiana Department of Correction’s Manual of Policies and Procedures.

“I believe it’s being used as a pretext,” PLN Editor Paul Wright says.

He says the magazine has subscribers in several Indiana prisons and that New Castle is the only Indiana location he knows of being denied access to PLN because of its pen pal service advertisements.

He says he doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence that the facility is operated by a private company.

“We’ve been critics of the private prison industry since our inception,” he says. “I mean at this point you’ve got a private, for-profit corporation using the power and authority granted by the government to crush the free speech of the independent media.”

The Department of Correction declined to comment directly on pending litigation, but in an email, department spokesman Doug Garrison says the state will respond to the plaintiff’s claim at the appropriate time, keeping with quote “the department’s administrative role to maintain safety and security at correctional facilities.”

Calls and an email to the New Castle Correctional Facility were not returned Tuesday afternoon.