Federal court settlement reached between Greene County, human rights organization

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office has reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed by the Human Rights Defense Center, a not-for-profit organization that provides books and literature to inmates.

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Greene County, Sheriff Gene Fischer and Jail Administrator Kirk Keller are named as defendants in HRDC’s complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Ohio Western Division.

HRDC publishes and distributes the Prison Legal News, a monthly journal of corrections news and analysis, as well as books about the criminal justice system, legal reference books and self-help books as well as other correspondence to jail inmates, according to the settlement.

HRDC alleged that the county violated their First and 14th amendments by not delivering their publications to the inmates and there was “a lack of due process” relevant to the county’s actions, according to the settlement.

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The agreement means the county will not “censor or otherwise fail to deliver the items mailed to prisoners” at the jail by HRDC, and that the county agrees that the publications “did not and do not threaten any legitimate penological interests of the jail and will not be censored in the future,” according to the settlement.

The agreement specifically cites that the jail cannot block mail because it was sent with a postage stamp, rather than metered postage, or has address labels affixed to it, according to the settlement. The settlement also states that the county cannot block delivery of the Prison Legal News because it has staples. Jail personnel can remove the staples from the publication before delivering it to inmates, according to the settlement.

The settlement states that the parties acknowledge that the agreement does not mean the county admits any liability, according to the settlement.

A copy of the settlement, which was signed by the parties on Dec. 29, is posted on the sheriff’s office website.

This news organization is working to gather more details about the case.


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