Canyon County officials are violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by censoring mail sent to prisoners in the county jail, according to a human rights group in a lawsuit.
The Human Rights Center in Tuesday’s lawsuit against the county and Sheriff Kieran Donahue said magazines and other legal rights documents it sends to incarcerated people are barred from passing.
The group, headquartered in Lake Worth, Florida, said it was helping prisoners in all 50 states seek redress for violations of their constitutional and other basic human rights. It does this in part by distributing books, magazines and brochures.
“It is the habit and practice of the accused to reject magazines and informational brochures sent by HRDC to prisoners at the prison,” said the trial. “As a result, the defendants’ postings and the policies and practices of the courier violate the rights of HRDC under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. . ”
Canyon County spokesman Joe Decker declined to comment on Thursday.
The group said it publishes a 72-page monthly magazine called Prison Legal News regarding prison news and analysis. Another magazine called Criminal Legal News focuses on individual rights and issues related to criminal justice. The group also publishes books on the criminal justice system, legal reference books and self-help books of interest to inmates.
The group in the lawsuit said Canyon County Jail officials refused to deliver issues of Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News, as well as informational brochures. The group said that as of November 2020, it can identify at least 21 pieces of mail it sent to inmates at the Canyon County Jail that it said were censored.
He said the items were returned with notes on the envelopes that read “Refused”, “Staples not allowed”, “Staples + ads not allowed” and “Request not allowed”.
The Canyon County website says inmates can receive books and magazines, but there are certain restrictions and conditions. Prison authorities, for example, do not allow inmates to have more than five publications at a time.
The lawsuit says the group suffered damage that includes the loss of potential subscribers and the inability to recruit new subscribers.
The group is asking the court to prevent prison officers from blocking the material it sends to inmates. He also seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.