10 Sept 08
I'm scheduled to appear live on the main Sky News TV station tonight (7:15pm UK time, 11:15am in Arizona).
Sky News has millions of viewers and can be watched on the Internet:
Thank you for all of the emails of support since the Arizona Department of Corrections tried to sabotage Jon’s Jail Journal by banning prisoners from writing to me. It is my hope that this publicity will help the plight of my friends inside.
This isn't the first time the Arizona Department of Corrections has blocked prisoners from the Internet. I just found this article online:
Arizona was the first and only state to erect a total blockade between its inmate population and the Internet -- and the first state to get trounced in court for trying to keep prisoners offline. The Arizona Legislature was stirred to act on the issue by the anguish and outrage of the widow of a murder victim, who came across a Web page on a pen pal site in which Beau Greene, her husband's killer, portrayed himself as a kindly lover of cats.
The result was a law enacted in 2000 that threatened to strip privileges and possibly lengthen the prison sentence of any inmate in Arizona who gained access to the Internet by any means, or for that matter, merely "corresponds or attempts to correspond with a communication service provider or remote computing service." It would even be illegal, the law brashly declared, if any other person accessed a prisoner Web service "at the inmate's request."
Prison authorities in Arizona asserted that the law not only protected the rights of victims, it also reduced a security risk and a growing administrative burden.
"Inmates used to have two or three pen pals," a spokesman for the department complained. "Now they can run it up into the hundreds," thanks to the growing number of Web-based pen pal services for prisoners.
The wilier inmates use one of a dozen or more sites such as Prison Pen Pals or Outlaws Online to garner more than mail, officials added. They coax money out of people on false pretenses and lure them into intense but duplicitous personal relationships.
Numerous lonely hearted women initially drawn in by a Web page have flocked from as far away as Belgium and Australia to Florence, Ariz., and its cluster of prisons, officials said. One of them once went so far as to obtain a gun and vehicle that was used in an escape attempt. While inmates can perpetrate scams through the regular mail, it is much easier via the Internet, the department and its lawyers maintained in defense of the law.
Judge Earl Carroll of the U.S. District Court in Phoenix wasn't buying it. In May 2003 he declared the Arizona law unconstitutional. Abusive Web postings that taunt victims, promote crime or attempt to defraud others can be stopped with existing regulations that prohibit inmates from sending or receiving that sort of material through the regular mail, the judge noted.
David Fathi, senior staff counsel for the ACLU National Prison Project, represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that toppled the Arizona law -- the Canadian coalition, a pen pal Web service and a Los Angeles-based organization called Stop Prisoner Rape.
"We argued that any legitimate interest that the prison system had in keeping inmates off the Internet was already covered by regulating the prisoners' incoming and outgoing mail," Fathi said. "The state doesn't have a legitimate interest in preventing someone from Canada, Sweden or New York from posting material on their Web site."
Besides stopping the occasional abusive posting, the Arizona law shut off Web writing that served an important public purpose, the ACLU noted, citing Stop Prisoner Rape as a case in point. On its Web site, the group, which advocates for changes in the law to address a little-noticed problem, publishes "survivor stories" written by victims of prison rapes. The group aims to "change public attitudes about sexual assault behind bars and put a human face on the issue instead of allowing it to be trivialized and made into a joke," said Alex Coolman, communications coordinator for the advocacy group.
No other state has followed in Arizona's footsteps and attempted an all-out prohibition on Internet access by inmates. "They have wisely realized that is not constitutionally permissible to prevent free people from putting material on their Web site," Fathi said.
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