Job prospects weren’t a problem for Paul Wright when he was released in 2003 after 17 years in the Washington state prison system. He needed to get to a computer fast, reports Courthouse News Service. Within two hours he was seated in front of one, at the Seattle office of Prison Legal News, learning how to use the Internet and email. Though the technology was still in its adolescence, it was light years from what Wright, 51, used to produce the magazine’s first issue. Frustrated that prisoners had no voice in the media coverage of the criminal justice system, Wright founded Prison Legal News in 1990 from his cell, laying out pages with a pencil and ruler, pasting graphics with a glue stick and typing the copy.
Looking back 25 years later, Wright wrote in Prison Legal News’s 301st that he didn’t expect the monthly magazine to withstand the hostilities of prison officials, and the challenges of finding someone trustworthy on the outside to distribute it — and it almost didn’t. The first three issues were banned in all Washington state prisons, the first 18 in all Texas prisons, he says. PLN has grown to 72 pages, more than $165,000 in annual advertising revenue, 13 full-time staffers — with offices in Lake Worth, Fl., Seattle and Tennessee — and over 7,000 subscribers in prisons and jails in all 50 states, which doesn’t account for the average of 10 people who read each magazine, as gauged by a reader survey.