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Court Finds Prisoner’s Blog Post Not Harassment

By Christopher Zoukis The federal government’s attempt to restrict a former prisoner’s First Amendment right to free speech has been reversed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Darren Chaker was convicted of a white collar crime related to a bankruptcy filing and sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. As part of his three

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Prisoner’s Complaints Protected Speech

By Christopher Zoukis The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a prisoner’s verbal grievance made to prison staff was protected speech under the First Amendment, and gave rise to a civil action when the prisoner faced retaliation for making a verbal complaint. Charles Mack, incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania,

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New Pennsylvania Law Stifles Prisoners’ Free Speech

By Christopher Zoukis On October 21, 2014, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed into law the Revictimization Relief Act (HB 2533/SB 508), which enabled victims of crime to petition a judge to censor Pennsylvania state prisoners, if the prisoner’s words cause or will theoretically cause “mental anguish” to a crime victim, regardless of who committed the

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Is Halloween Law Needed?

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

The scary things of Halloween such as, ghosts, goblins and razor blade ridden apples are now in the past. In today’s world parents and children have a new set of haunting concerns.

Last Thursday evening as the sun was setting children emerged into neighborhoods questing for ‘tricks or treats.” Homes were inventively decorated with carved jack-o-lanterns and orange lights strung randomly around windowsills. Children dressed in costumes ran down sidewalks, anticipating what treats awaited them at the next house.

But wait….what is this? The house is dark, not a light on in the house. It almost looks haunted. There is a sign in the yard and it is not part of the Halloween décor. The sign reads, “No candy or treats at this residence.” This appears to be the scariest house on the street.

The Los Angeles Times reports that under a southern California ordinance created by Girard Mayor James Melfi, called the Girard Law, sex offenders were barred from putting up Halloween displays and outside lighting. Offenders listed on the Megan’s Law website were required to post a sign in front of their house that gives children the message there will be no candy handed out here.

A small group of Simi Valley registered sex-offenders protested the law because the policy is discriminatory and infringing on their personal rights to participate in a customary holiday. According to Attorney and president of the California Reform Sex Offender Laws group, Janice Bellucci, who represented the five sex offenders in the suit, the law reeks of discrimination and is reminiscent of when Nazis made Jews wear yellow stars. The city was sued for encroaching on offenders’ freedom of speech and ordered to remove the signs.

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No Free Speech Protection for Prisoners Who Copy Excerpts from Books

By Christopher Zoukis Prisoners who copy “arguably inflammatory” or “incendiary” passages from the books they check out from a prison library or are allowed to purchase are not entitled to rely on the First Amendment to protect them from disciplinary punishment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held on August 2, 2012.

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The First Amendment in Twenty-First Century American Corrections

By Christopher Zoukis The other day a friend asked me a question.  The question was, “What does the future of the battle for prisoners’ rights look like?”  To this, I responded that the battle ground will most likely revolve around the First Amendment; that we, as prisoner rights advocates, would have to fight for the

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