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NLG and CCR v. Gene M. Johnson, et al

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Synopsis

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Laweyrs Guild sued the Virigina Department of Corrections for placing the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook, a free publication of both organizations, on a "disapproved publications list."

NLG and CCR were represented by Virginia attorneys Jeffrey Fogel and Steven Rosenfield, respectively.

Status

The case was settled February 25, 2011.

Click here to read the Settlement Agreement.

Description

The Jailhouse Lawyer's Handbook explains to prisoners how they can exercise their Constitutional rights to protect themselves from physical abuse, poor conditions and other mistreatment, specifically by filing civil suits against prison officials. It is co-published by CCR and NLG.

Since its initial publication in 2003, demand for the Handbook has grown substantially; both CCR and the NLG provide copies to several thousand prisoners every year. The Handbook was recently banned from all Virginia prisons by the Virginia Department of Corrections – this act of censorship infringes upon the First Amendment and due process rights of prisoners throughout Virginia.

Settlement Agreement

Some of the key points of the Settlement reach February 25, 2011 are:

  • VDOC has removed any references to all previously disapproved editions of the Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook (JLH) from its Disapproved Publications List. VDOC agrees not to revisit and disapprove any of those editions.
  • Within fifteen (15) days of the signing of this agreement, VDOC will communicate to all state correctional facility Wardens/Superintendents that the Director and Deputy Director have reviewed the JLH editions previously disapproved for receipt into VDOC facilities and determined that none of those editions contains material that violates agency publication policy. This communication shall further state that the Director and Deputy Director have concluded that the JLH does not appear to be a publication that contains material that violates agency publication policy...This communication will also instruct that if there is a facility determination that a future edition of the JLH contains material that appears to violate agency publications policy, that particular edition is to be sent without undue delay directly to the Office of the Deputy Director, with an explanation as to what particular material is thought to violate agency publications policy.
  • Five copies of the JLH, to be supplied by the National Lawyers Guild and/or the Center for Constitutional rights, shall be placed in the library of each facility under the control of the Department of Corrections.
  • Where a prisoner is held in a housing unit that does not afford him/her access to a library, a notice shall be hand delivered to each prisoner informing them that the JLH is available upon request and subject to other rules applicable to library materials in the cell.
  • VDOC will designate the NLG and CCR as legitimate sources from whom publications may be purchased or received, including gift publications, without prior approval, review or determination of any kind by VDOC, its agents or employees.
  • Within thirty (30) days of the signing of this agreement, VDOC agrees to post on existing bulletin boards of each state prison or correctional facility for a period of one year a notice that all previously disapproved editions of the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook have been removed from the Disapproved Publications List and are now approved for receipt into Virginia state correctional facilities.

Timeline

The complaint was filed July 21, 2010 in the Western District of Virigina.

Click here to read CCR's press release on the lawsuit.

The case was settled February 25, 2011.

Click here to read the Settlement Agreement.