Prison Legal News (PLN), a non-profit monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, filed suit on September 3, 2009 in U.S. District Court in Arizona against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nations largest for-profit prison firm. PLN contends that CCA violated its rights under the First Amendment and the Arizona Constitution by censoring books sent to prisoners at the companys Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona. Prison officials do not have the right to censor books and magazines simply because they dislike the publisher, said lead counsel Sanford Jay Rosen of Rosen, Bien & Galvan. The actions of the CCA officials are not only unconstitutional, but make it more difficult for publishers and the media to gain access to prisoners and for prisoners to receive information that can assist them in making a successful transition to society after prison.Publishers have a well-established First Amendment right to send their publications and books to prisoners, said PLN editor Paul Wright, and CCA, which has been in the prison business for more than 25 years, should have been well aware of that right.
According to PLNs complaint, the Saguaro prison, which holds prisoners from Hawaii and Washington state, maintains a policy that prohibits the receipt of books from PLN. PLN sells approximately 40 book titles, which include self-help books, educational books and books on criminal justice topics. In 2008 and 2009, at least six Saguaro prisoners were prohibited from receiving books from PLN or informed they could not order from PLN.
As justification for such censorship, CCA employees stated that PLN was an unapproved vendor and claimed that books ordered from PLN constituted a serious danger to the security of the facility. Additionally, CCA failed to notify PLN that its books were being censored, in violation of PLNs right to due process.
The actions by CCA continue longstanding patterns of arbitrary decisions by prison administrators based on their convenience, without regard to the rights and needs of prisoners and publishers alike, added ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Dan Pochoda, who is serving as co-counsel on this case.
The Saguaro facility reportedly has a policy that requires prisoners to order books from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com. CCA also has a policy that prohibits prisoners family members from purchasing books and publications on their behalf. In addition to naming CCA as a defendant in the suit, the complaint also names Daren Swenson, CCAs regional manager in Arizona; Todd Thomas, the warden at Saguaro; and Saguaros assistant warden and chief of security.
The case is Prison Legal News v. Corrections Corp. of America, U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, Case No. 2:09-CV-01831-ROS. In addition to Rosen and Pochoda, PLN also is represented by Blake Thompson of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP and PLN General Counsel Dan E. Manville in Ferndale, Michigan.
Prison Legal News(PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Seattle, Washington, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. PLN publishes a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues.
PLN has almost 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a Web site (www.prisonlegalnews.org) that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents. PLN is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center.