Author:Ciaramella, C.J.
Position:Prison Legal News, The Gamecock, Dwelling Portable, Inspire, Don Diva


UH OH--LOOKS LIKE you've landed behind bars. You should pick up a copy of Prison Legal News. This monthly magazine, the oldest continual publication written by and for inmates, is an indispensable resource on prison issues, prisoner rights, and the ins and outs of civil litigation in a system seemingly designed to keep prisoners from winning their freedom.

America's 2 million incarcerated people suffer inhumane conditions and civil liberties abuses that are mostly invisible to the rest of the country. Inmates have little recourse and even fewer sources of helpful, relevant information.

Of course, many prison administrators prefer that their inmates not be civil litigation experts. As a result, Prison Legal News is possibly the most frequently banned magazine in the United States. It has brought countless First Amendment challenges, filed public records lawsuits, and submitted friend of the court briefs against censorious prisons in 29 states to get its issues into inmates' hands.

Even for those not in the clink it's a magazine worth reading, if only to absorb the magnitude of the problem. A sample of headlines from the publication's April issue: "California: Mentally Ill Jail Prisoner Dies after Two Days in Restraint Chair; $5 Million Settlement," "Louisiana Prison Officials Sued for Trying to Block Investigation into Abuse of Disabled Prisoners," and "Florida KKK Guards Convicted in Plot to Kill Former Prisoner."

It's a hell of a system, and Prison Legal News is one of the few publications dedicated to documenting it.


THE GAMECOCK IS not for casual cockers. Everything about the magazine suggests it's geared toward diehard participants of the now illicit sport of cockfighting.

The magazine's cover is decidedly understated, with most issues featuring only the title and the profile of a ringready rooster on a cream-colored background. Flip it open to find black-andwhite photos alongside content geared not toward mass appeal but rather toward serving expert practitioners of this black art. That includes features about fighting birds, with descriptions listing the breed, price, and contact information for the seller. There are ads for performance-enhancing drugs guaranteed to improve fight performance by 10 percent as well as obits for dearly departed cockers (that is, the human owners, not the birds).

Sadly, The Gamecock is hard to come by these days. Lawsuits from animal rights groups got it pulled off Amazon...

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