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Upshur sheriff being sued

A Vermont-based organization which says it "educates prisoners about their legal rights" has filed a federal lawsuit against Upshur County, Sheriff Anthony Betterton and Sheriff's Lt. Jill McCauley, alleging the co-defendants are "wrongfully censoring" the plaintiff's mailed communications with prisoners in the county jail.SHERIFF BETTERTON

Dallas attorney Cass Wieland, representing the county, has filed a general denial of the charges in the suit filed by Prison Legal News on Nov. 26 in United States District Court in Marshall.

The lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages, alleges the county has violated PLN's right to free speech by rejecting and returning magazines and books it tried to send prisoners. Mrs. McCauley was named as a co-defendant because she is lieutenant over the jail and a "final policymaker" for it, the document said. 

The lawsuit identifies PLN as a non-profit organization with primary offices in Brattleboro, Vermont, and as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Human Rights Defense Center, a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation. The center's "mission is centered on public education, prisoner education, and advocacy in support of basic human rights," says the 8-page document.

The lawsuit was filed by three Austin attorneys with the Texas Civil Rights Project--Brian McGiverin, Scott Medlock and James C. Harrington.

The document says PLN "publishes and distributes a 56-page legal information magazine addressing the rights of incarcerated people," which is distributed to prisoners in about 2,200 correctional facilities across the nation. PLN also distributes about 50 books by other publishers concerning the criminal justice system, the lawsuit says.

The plaintiff says that since July 2011, PLN has mailed its magazine to Upshur jail inmates, and that those who subscribe to the magazine are also sent copies of the paperback book Protecting Your Health and Safety: Prisoners' Rights, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center. "The book gives inmates information about their right to medical care and protections against inhumane treatment," the lawsuit says.

"Since July 2011, PLN has received returned copies of its monthly magazine and books from the Upshur County Jail. Out of approximately 223 issues of PLN's magazine sent since July 2011, at least 86 issues were rejected and sent back. Many books have been returned the same way," the document states.