Inmate-turned-journalist Paul Wright on what he’s learned in his 25 years covering the prison system.
Q: When you started writing about incarceration, there were about 1.2 million people in prison or jail in the U.S. Now, that figure is about 2.5 million. Besides the explosion in the prison population, what other changes have you watched happen?
A: Probably one of the bigger things has been the rise of solitary confinement. When we first started, there were very few so-called “super max” prisons that were designed specifically with isolation in mind. Through the ’90s, we saw the construction of dozens of super max prisons that were designed from the get-go for the purpose of destroying people psychologically, emotionally, and mentally.
Q: A big part of your work is done through the Human Rights Defense Center’s lawsuits against prison systems around the country. What do you have pending right now?
A: Our focus at HRDC has been on communications, and we do a lot with mail censorship. I can say that but for HRDC litigation, around 700,000 prisoners in a whole bunch of different states and jails around the country would not be getting the books, magazines and letter correspondence they are now getting. So that’s had a huge impact.We’ve got about 15 lawsuits on file right now. We have challenges to postcard-only policies in California, Michigan and Tennessee, and we just wrapped up similar litigation in California, Florida, Georgia, Washington, and Texas. Statewide prison bans on PLN have also been overturned in nine other states, and we have pending lawsuits over PLN censorship pending in Florida and Nevada.
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The picture associated with this post represents a client of Jay’s [Commander X, in the middle with a fishing hat and a beard] that fled America because his bail conditions were too restrictive. The case involved a digital revolution protest.
[Ventura County, California criminal defense lawyer and State Bar Certified Criminal Law Specialist Jay Leiderman provides defense of cases involving oppression leveled against activists and hacktivists. He does all types of cases involving the digital revolution, civil rights, political dissent, emerging tech issues in the courts, piracy, Search and seizure issues, freedom on the internet, fighting against unjust systems, governmental and prosecutorial overreach, medical marijuana, and overall injustice. Jay fights for the underdog. Jay is a lifetime member of the NORML Legal Committee. He wrote the first-ever defense of medical marijuana cases book in California. Jay is pro-privacy for the individual and believes in transparency for the state and large corporations. He is also a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), The National Lawyer’s Guild (NLG), The California Public Defender’s Association (CPDA) and is also a lifetime member of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ). He is admitted to practice in state and federal courts.]