GENEVA – Kane County has settled a federal lawsuit with a prison rights organization by agreeing to pay $75,000 to its attorney and changing its mail rules for inmates, federal court records show.
The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case.
"Prison Legal News" is a 72-page soft-cover monthly journal that covers corrections news and analysis about prisoners' rights, court rulings, and other issues related to prisons and jails, according to the lawsuit.
Some copies of "Prison Legal News" were returned to its headquarters in Lake Worth, Florida, was because the magazine is held together with staples, according to the lawsuit, filed in October.
Prisoners in Kane County jail could not receive mail with staples, according to the jail rules, "for safety and security concerns."
The lawsuit alleged that Kane County, the sheriff and several employees violated inmates’ First, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights to receive its magazine when 98 copies of its publication were denied to prisoners from August 2012 to June 2015, according to the lawsuit.
In the four-page settlement agreement, Kane County officials agreed to have jail personnel remove staples then distribute the mail; to post copies of the revised inmate mail rules within 30 days of the settlement; to revise the detainee handbook; and to purchase 10 one-year subscriptions to “Prison Legal News” for $350.
The agreement settles all claims without admission of liability by any of the parties, according to the settlement.
Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen signed the agreement June 17.
“The [Kane County] State’s Attorney’s Office did not feel that it could successfully defend the county for less than the settlement amount, so the board authorized me to sign the agreement,” Lauzen said.
“I respect everyone’s constitutional rights. But as a taxpayer in Kane County, this $75,000 penalty is distasteful,” Lauzen said. “If anyone is ever injured by some use of the staples, if one of our guards or [a] fellow prisoner is ever injured, it really will be the responsibility of this organization that filed this suit.”
"Prison Legal News" is a project of The Human Rights Defense Center, a nonprofit agency.
Paul Wright, founder and executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center and editor of “Prison Legal News” said the $75,000 was to pay its Chicago attorneys, Loevy and Loevy, for the cost of the lawsuit.
“Prisoners in jail are supposed to be able to receive books and magazines,” Wright said. “They cannot use ‘bound by staples’ not to deliver them.”