RBGG’s Sandy Rosen, Jeff Bornstein and Chris Hu are representing the Human Rights Defense Center in a case filed on July 3 against Los Angeles County Jail. Details in the press release below.
Lawsuit Accuses Los Angeles County Jail of Federal and State Civil Liberty Violations
LOS ANGELES, July 5, 2017 — A national human rights organization is accusing the Los Angeles County Jail of federal and state civil liberty violations. The jail holds the largest number of pre-trial detainees in the United States, and was previously the target of a federal investigation that resulted in the conviction of the former sheriff and jail officials.
The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), a Florida-based non-profit organization that has spent nearly thirty years protecting the rights of people in U.S. detention facilities, is accusing the Los Angeles County Jail of violating state and federal free speech and due process rights as well as violations of California’s Bane Act, which protects against law enforcement interference with constitutional rights by threat, intimidation or coercion.
HRDC publishes Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly magazine that reports on criminal justice issues and prison and jail-related civil litigation. PLN, recipient of the First Amendment Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, is delivered to correctional facilities in all fifty states, including the Federal Los Angeles Detention Center located less than one mile from the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail.
In federal court (HRDC v. County of Los Angeles, Case No. 17-4883), HRDC accuses the jail of unconstitutionally blocking delivery of its magazine to prisoners in the Men’s Central Jail’s general population and in a restrictive housing unit known as “K-10.”
HRDC argues the jail recklessly disregards constitutional rights by preventing prisoners from receiving PLN. Rather than delivering the magazine to subscription-holding prisoners, jail staff have repeatedly intercepted its delivery and returned issues with labels such as: “CONTENTS UNACCEPTABLE,” “UNACCEPTABLE READING MATERIAL” and “BANNED” stamped on them. HRDC says the jail is violating free speech rights and denying due process by failing to provide adequate notice and a chance to appeal its censorship.
In addition, 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. 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.
“Pre-trial detainees have already been stripped of their freedom, but the L.A. County Jail isn’t stopping there. It is illegally denying prisoners constitutionally-protected, free speech materials that might actually teach them about their rights while behind bars,” said Paul Wright, executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center. “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.”
HRDC is demanding that the case be heard by a federal jury.
For additional information, please contact:
Paul Wright, Executive Director
Human Rights Defense Center
(802) 275-8594 or (561) 360-2523
Jeffrey Bornstein, Attorney
ROSEN BIEN GALVAN & GRUNFELD LLP
(415) 433-6830 (main)