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HRDC censorship suit filed against NC county jail, April 25, 2018.

Lawsuit: Mecklenburg County Jail accused of censoring publications

By: Mark Becker


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There are claims in a new lawsuit that the Mecklenburg County Jail is violating inmates' constitutional rights.

The Prison Legal News is 72 pages of news and information about the criminal justice system, which is published monthly by a nonprofit agency called the Human Rights Defense Center.

“This is to tell prisoners what their rights are, what legal developments are,” said Paul Wright, editor of the newsletter.

He said the newsletter has thousands of subscribers around the country and between 15 and 20 of them are in the Mecklenburg County Jail.

The lawsuit said that about two years ago, the Mecklenburg County Jail began censoring issues of that and other publications that the Human Rights Defense Center sent to inmates.

In some cases, the lawsuit said someone had written "banned" on them and sent them back.

Wright said that is a violation of the First Amendment.

“I think that's one of the reasons why they single us out for censorship,” Wright said. “Is because we're critical of, we're critical of the criminal justice system.”

They have filed similar lawsuits against 70 or 80 other jails and prisons and that they have won 99 percent of those cases, Wright said.

A spokeswoman for the Mecklenburg County Jail said they have not been served with the lawsuit so they can't comment.

The case is sure to raise more questions about the jail and the sheriff, who is also involved in a heated re-election campaign.

The lawsuit is asking for a preliminary injunction that would stop the jail from censoring this and other publications.

That would be heard by a federal judge.