HRDC files censorship suit against LA County Jail
Prisoners’ rights group sues LA County, alleges jail is blocking magazine delivery
LOS ANGELES >> A prisoners’ rights organization is suing Los Angeles County for allegedly refusing to allow jail inmates to receive copies of a monthly magazine that reports on criminal justice issues.
The Human Rights Defense Center alleges in the federal lawsuit, filed Monday in Los Angeles, that the county is unconstitutionally blocking delivery of the plaintiff’s Prison Legal News to subscribers in the Men’s Central Jail general population and in a restrictive housing unit known as “K-10.”
The county counsel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The HRDC, a Florida-based nonprofit that publishes the magazine, contends that Los Angeles County is “recklessly” violating state and federal free speech and due process laws by banning its distribution. The publication, which received a free-speech award from the Society of Professional Journalists, is delivered throughout the country to correctional facilities, including the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles, the suit says.
“Pre-trial detainees have already been stripped of their freedom, but the L.A. County jail isn’t stopping there,” alleged Paul Wright, executive director of the HRDC. “It is illegally denying prisoners constitutionally protected free speech materials that might actually teach them about their rights while behind bars. Given the long history of violence, brutality, corruption and neglect at the Los Angeles jail and its dismal management, no one needs this information more than prisoners in that facility.”
Rather than delivering the magazine to subscription-holding prisoners, jail staff have repeatedly intercepted delivery and returned issues with labels such as “contents unacceptable,” the organization alleges.
On at least seven occasions, the jail has specifically blocked mail containing copies of a court decision dealing with prison rules barring prisoners from receiving material printed from the internet, according to the lawsuit. The court opinions were sent directly to prisoners who had requested them and to other prisoners whom HRDC identified as likely to need such information, the suit states.