Indiana prison sued for allegedly banning journal

A journal that reports on the rights of inmates is suing an Indiana correctional facility for denying its prisoners access to the publication, attorneys announced Monday.

Prison Legal News claims in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Indianapolis that it has sent at least 90 issues of the journal since February to subscribers at the New Castle Correctional Facility, a privately run prison about 45 miles northeast of Indianapolis. The journal alleges several inmate subscribers did not receive copies because it carried advertisements for companies that provide pen-pal services to prisoners.

According to the lawsuit, a memo sent to inmates by prison Superintendent Keith Butts' executive assistant said the Indiana Department of Correction has a policy prohibiting prisoners from participating in pen-pal services, The Indianapolis Star reported. The memo asked inmates who wish to keep any copies of the journal to send them to their families "or they will be considered contraband and could be confiscated."

The lawsuit claims the policy is irrational because other publications that prisoners are allowed to receive contain advertisements for services or items to which they don't have access. The lawsuit claims the policy violates the journal's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

"There is no rational constitutional basis for the prison to deny access to this publication, which is distributed across the country and is a vital resource for those who are incarcerated," Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana's legal director, said in a news release Monday. "The denial violates the most fundamental rights — the right to engage in speech on matters of public concern and the right of due process."

The ACLU of Indiana is handling the lawsuit on behalf of the journal.

Indiana Department of Correction spokesman Doug Garrison said the agency is reviewing the complaint, which was filed Wednesday. A message seeking comment was left for a spokesman for the prison's operator, Boca Raton, Florida-based Geo Group.

Prison Legal News is a publication produced by Human Rights Defense Center, a Lake Worth, Florida-based nonprofit organization. The magazine has subscribers in about 2,400 correctional facilities across the country.

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