Paul Wright, 38, spent 17 years in prison for murder. For 15 years, reports the Seattle Weekly, he has edited Prison Legal News, the only nationally distributed prisoners’ rights journal. Wright has co-authored or edited two books and has racked up 14 court victories against prison systems around the country, all affirming the First Amendment rights of prisoners
Recently released from the Washington State Reformatory, he said what has changed in 17 years is that “Things are really expensive. When I go shopping, I have to be with someone I trust so I can ask, ‘Is this a real price? Or is this just a tourist price or something?’ ”
Wright wants to increase the revenue of Prison Legal News by selling more advertising and attracting grants. Ads account for only around 8 percent of the newspaper’s $150,000 annual income. Unless the revenue increases the newspaper cannot support the decision to have him join a paid staff, bringing its number to four.
Wright was 21 and an Army private in the Army in 1987 when he killed a man he says was a drug dealer, during a robbery attempt. His newspaper started as 10 photocopied pages distributed by hand and has grown to a 40-page monthly with 3,600 subscribers in the U.S. and abroad. Prison Legal News has broken stories picked up by newspapers around the nation. He considers his biggest journalistic achievement to be jump-starting the policy debate over prison labor. He has exposed the use of prisoners by contractors for Microsoft, Starbucks, Boeing, and former U.S. Rep. Jack Metcalf, among others. He has battled prison systems that refused to allow inmates to receive Prison Legal News. Seattle attorney Mickey Gendler has handled many of his First Amendment cases.