A prison news magazine has filed a lawsuit against Idaho’s Canyon County for allegedly censoring and restricting the circulation of its publication.
According to Newsweek, Human Rights Defense Center—the creator of the Prison Legal News magazine—has accused Canyon County and its sheriff, Kieran Donahue, of preventing inmates from receiving the magazine.
Prison Legal News, notes Newsweek, provides incarcerated persons with information about their legal rights.
Human Rights Defense Center claims that Canyon County has prevented inmates from receiving not only Prison Legal News, but other, similar publications as well.
“Defendants have a custom and practice of rejecting magazines and information brochures sent by HRDC to prisoners at the jail,” Human Rights Defense Center attorneys wrote in their lawsuit. “Accordingly, Defendants’ publications and mail policies and practices violate HRDC’s rights under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”
HRDC claims that Canyon County began censoring and rejecting its mail as early as November 2020.
In their complaint, Center attorneys say they can identify at least 21 pieces of mail which Canyon County officials prevented from reaching inmate subscribers.
These items, says Newsweek, were returned to HRDC’s Lake Worth, Florida, headquarters with various explanatory labels, such as “soliciting not allowed,” “staples not allowed,” and “refused.”
The Associated Press notes that the Human Rights Defense Center assists prisoners seeking legal help for violations of their constitutional and other basic rights; the group has an operating presence in all 50 states.
As part of its outreach strategy, HRDC distributes books, magazines, and brochures to inmates and detainees.
Prison Legal News, a 72-page monthly magazine, includes prison-related news and analyses. HRDC also publishes another magazine—Criminal Legal News—which focuses on individual rights and criminal justice-related issues, topics, and debates.
Alongside its monthly and semi-regular publications, the organization also provides legal reference materials and self-help books to prisoners.
Canyon County’s website, adds The Associated Press, explicitly says that inmates can receive books and magazines, subject to some restrictions—jail officials do not, for example, allow prisoners to possess more than five publications at any time.
Human Rights Defense Center’s lawsuit claims that the organization suffered damages when Canyon County prevented it from obtaining new subscribers and rendering services to existing subscribers. The HRDC is asking the court to issue an order preventing Canyon County officials from continuing to censor its publications, as well as a jury trial to determine unspecified damages.
Canyon County spokesperson Joe Decker, says Newsweek, declined the outlet’s request for comment on Thursday.