On November 9, 2012, Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas against Upshur County, Texas, alleging violation of its rights to free speech and due process at the Upshur County Jail. On ...
read more >
On November 9, 2012, Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas against Upshur County, Texas, alleging violation of its rights to free speech and due process at the Upshur County Jail. On October 10, 2013, the plaintiff filed a second amended complaint adding allegations of violations of the right to free press. PLN was represented by the Texas Civil Rights Project, as well as by lawyers who work for its umbrella organization, the Human Rights Defense Center. The plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief, along with nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages.
According to the complaint, PLN mailed copies of its monthly publication to jail prisoners, as well as copies of a book titled Protecting Your Health and Safety. The jail rejected approximately 90 of PLN's publications over a one-year period. The jail also rejected legal mail sent to prisoners by PLN. No notice was provided to the prisoners regarding the censorship of PLN's publications. The complaint alleges that the Upshur County Jail's prisoner handbook "contains no written criteria explaining when a publication will be rejected," and jail policy "does not provide a sender any notice or explanation when a book is censored."
On September 30, 2013, the district court (Judge Rodney Gilstrap) granted in part and denied in part the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. The court (Judge Gilstrap) found that modifications to the jail's "correspondence plan" were necessary in order to meet standards guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The court (Judge Gilstrap) ordered implementation of specific terms for rejecting correspondence.
The parties entered into a settlement agreement that was approved by the court on December 6, 2013. Under the agreement, the defendants agreed to adopt a new policy for correspondence and agreed to distribute publications such as Prison Legal News. The jail also agreed to provide notice to senders and prisoners, and an opportunity to appeal, when mail was censored or rejected.Priyah Kaul - 10/16/2014