Nonprofit Sues AZ Department of Corrections for Hijacking Legal Rights Magazines

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November 11, 2015; Los Angeles Times

Four issues of the monthly magazine Prison Legal News were withheld from 97 subscribers who are inmates. The 25-year-old magazine, produced by the nonprofit Human Rights Defense Center, has subsequently filed suit against the Arizona Department of Corrections for violating the free speech rights of the magazine.

According to the suit, the reasons for withholding and then redacting some copies of the magazine had to do with its coverage of “riots/work stoppages/resistance,” “unacceptable sexual or hostile behaviors,” and “sexually explicit material”—which Prison Legal News assumes pertains to articles about court cases about rapes and sexual assault in prison, and, in particular those involving prison staff. One such case had to do with an incident in Arizona. Attorney Lisa Ells says that it appears that the department is retaliating against PLN for its content, which addresses the legal rights of prisoners.

ADOC spokesman Andrew Wilder told Capitol Media Services says that the measure was taken to ensure “the safe, secure and orderly operation of our prisons.”

The Prison Legal News, which is distributed in 2600 federal and state institutions across the United States, and its nonprofit parent were awarded the First Amendment Award by the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013.—Ruth McCambridge