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EFF Defends Prisoners’ First Amendment Rights

PRESS RELEASE
December 16, 2005

Opposes Prison Mail Ban on Materials Printed from Internet

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of Prison Legal News told a federal court Wednesday that Georgia state prisoners should be allowed to receive material printed from the Internet through the mail.

Although Georgia state prisons allow prisoners to receive handwritten letters in the mail, Georgia prison policy also includes a blanket ban on any incoming mail containing printouts from the Internet. Since prisoners cannot themselves access the Internet, Internet materials printed and mailed by family and friends are often the only way for them to receive valuable legal information, health advice, and religious materials. In a friend-of-the-court brief for a case filed by Georgia prisoner Danny Williams, EFF argues that this indiscriminate and arbitrary ban on Internet-generated materials violates prisoners' First Amendment rights. Several courts in other states have already ruled that mail policies like the one at issue here are unconstitutional.

"Georgia prisons are violating the rights of prisoners and those who correspond with them by senselessly allowing prisoners to receive handwritten mail but prohibiting printouts of material from the Internet," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "It makes no sense and serves no legitimate interest for a prison to prohibit a prisoner from receiving, for example, a printout of the latest issue of Prison Legal News, or information from the Internet about health issues like AIDS that can be life-or-death issues for prisoners."

Prison Legal News is a non-profit legal magazine, publishing monthly review and analyses of prisoner rights, prisoner-relevant legislation and court rulings, and news about general prison issues. The majority of Prison Legal News subscribers, as well as most of its writers, are currently incarcerated.

EFF was assisted in this case by attorney Sarah M. Shalf of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, LLP in Atlanta, Georgia.

For the brief filed in this case:
http://eff.org/legal/cases/williams_v_donald/EFF_PLN_amicus.pdf

Contact:

Kevin Bankston
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
bankston@eff.org

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