Tulare County Jail sued over ‘censorship’charge by prisoner rights magazine

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux Tulare County Sheriff’s Department

Prison Legal News magazine has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux of violating the free speech rights of inmates by not delivering its publications to them.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Fresno, claims that 336 issues of Prison Legal News were not delivered or were returned to sender with no explanation.

It said the jail won’t deliver them because they have staples holding the pages together, but a Christian magazine with similar staples gets delivered.

I haven’t received any grievances (by inmates).

Capt. Tom Sigley, Tulare County Sheriff’s Department

Jail commander Capt. Tom Sigley said magazines with staples are not allowed in the county jails and there are no exceptions to the policy.

Staples contain metal, he said.

“They (inmates) can use it to arc something to start a fire,” he said.

Additionally, “I haven’t received any grievances” from inmates about not getting the publication, Sigley said.

The Sheriff’s Department hasn’t been served the lawsuit, he said.

The lawsuit seeks a court order telling the sheriff to deliver the publication to inmates.

Prison Legal News publishes a 72-page monthly magazine about prisoners’ rights, court rulings, management of prisons and jails and conditions of confinement.

By not delivering the magazine, the county and sheriff are engaging in “unconstitutional censorship,” said a statement by the Human Rights Defense Center of Lake Worth, Fla., which operates the magazine.

Lawyer Lisa Ells of the law firm of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld in San Francisco is representing Prison Legal News.

Last year, Ells sued Ventura County over its jail policy of allowing incoming mail on postcards only. A federal judge ordered the jail to abandon the policy.

The county agreed to pay Prison Legal News $350,000 for damages, costs and fees, the law firm said.

Prison Legal News said it publishes a 72-page monthly magazine on criminal justice issues and prison and jail-related civil litigation, and has about 9,000 subscribers, of which about 65 percent are incarcerated.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold