Corrections Corp. of America Pays Damages, Attorney Fees to Settle Censorship Lawsuit
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Phoenix, AZ – Prison Legal News, a non-profit monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, announced today that it had settled a censorship suit against Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), the nation's largest for-profit private prison company.
Prison Legal News (PLN) filed the lawsuit in September 2009, claiming that CCA's Saguaro Correctional Center only allowed prisoners to order books from Amazon or Barnes & Nobles under the facility's mail policy in effect at the time.
PLN argued that its inability to send books to prisoners at the CCA prison violated its rights under both the First Amendment and the Arizona Constitution. PLN sells over 40 book titles, including self-help books, dictionaries, educational books and books on legal topics. Examples include Everyday Letters for Busy People, Finding the Right Lawyer, and Starting Out! The Complete Re-Entry Handbook.
CCA staff claimed books sent to prisoners by PLN constituted "a serious danger to the security of the facility," and said PLN was an "unapproved vendor." CCA also failed to notify PLN that its books were being censored, and prohibited prisoners' family members from purchasing books and publications on their behalf.
CCA changed its mail policy at Saguaro soon after PLN filed suit and agreed to settle the case in May 2010. As part of the settlement, PLN will not be placed on a prohibited vendor list, nor will PLN be subject to a blanket ban by CCA staff. Further, prisoners at Saguaro will be permitted to receive books and publications ordered by their family members or other third parties, CCA must post notices of the settlement at the Saguaro facility in areas where prisoners can read them, and CCA has to notify PLN of future censorship.
The settlement will be enforceable by the U.S. District Court for a period of 18 months ending on December 5, 2011. CCA also agreed to pay a lump sum to PLN in damages, attorney's fees and costs. The amount of the payment cannot be included in this press release pursuant to the terms of the settlement agreement, but the amount paid by CCA to settle this case is available by contacting PLN's representatives or attorneys, listed below.
"It is always unfortunate when corrections officials ignore the First Amendment by prohibiting publishers from sending books to prisoners," stated PLN editor Paul Wright. "This settlement will ensure that CCA employees respect our rights, and that prisoners and their family members can order books from PLN and other publishers. As the nation's largest private prison company, CCA should have known better than to censor our books and violate our rights."
"The fundamental right to send and receive written material is basic for an informed society," added Dan Pochoda, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arizona. "[Prison] administrators too often act as if prisoners check their constitutional protections at the prison door, and the ACLU was pleased to assist PLN in challenging that view in this case."
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-PHX-ROS. PLN was ably represented by attorneys Ernest Galvan, Sandy Rosen and Blake Thompson with the San Francisco law firm of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP, and Daniel Pochoda, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arizona.
Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Brattleboro, Vermont, 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 website (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.
Founded in 1959, the ACLU of Arizona is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization dedicated to preserving Constitutional freedoms and the Bill of Rights. With approximately 6,000 members and supporters statewide, the ACLU of Arizona is an affiliate of the national ACLU, which boasts a membership of 550,000. The ACLU is funded entirely with private donations, foundation grants, court-awarded legal fees and membership dues, and does not receive any government funding. For more information on the ACLU of Arizona, visit www.acluaz.org.