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Prisoners' rights magazine sues Arizona Dept. of Corrections over censorship

Prisoners' rights magazine sues Arizona Dept. of Corrections over censorship
The state prison in Florence, Ariz. The magazine Prison Legal News has sued the Arizona Department of Corrections over censorship. (AP)

Prison Legal News, a 25-year-old magazine produced by the nonprofit Human Rights Defense Center, has sued the Arizona Department of Corrections over censorship.

In 2014, prisoners in Arizona stopped receiving copies of Prison Legal News, according to the suit. The monthly magazine's March, April, July and October issues were withheld from 97 Arizona inmates with subscriptions.

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The reason given was that the magazines, which had previously been delivered regularly, had information pertaining to "riots/work stoppages/resistance," "unacceptable sexual or hostile behaviors," and "sexually explicit material."

Because no specific stories were cited, Prison Legal News has assumed that the articles in question were about court cases about rapes and sexual assault in prison, particularly those involving prison staff, one of which was an Arizona case.

Eventually prisoners were given the magazines, some of which had been redacted. Corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder told Capitol Media Services that the department was acting to ensure "the safe, secure and orderly operation of our prisons." During this period, Arizona prisons held approximately 40,000 inmates.

"Defendants' policies, practices and customs censor PLN's expressive activities and have a chilling effect on PLN's future speech and expression directed toward inmates confined there," the complaint contends.

For its work covering prisoners' rights issues for prisoners and its legal actions on their behalf, the Human Rights Defense Fund and its Prison Legal News was awarded the First Amendment Award by the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013.

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