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Johnson v. Mitchem

Case Number


Advocating for the First Amendment
The warden at Alabama's Donaldson Correctional Facility implemented a publications policy that restricted the selection of magazines that inmates could order to a pre-approved list of a mere sixteen publications.

Books, catalogs, and any magazines not on the warden's list were suddenly not allowed. Newspapers that were not from the inmate's hometown were also suddenly and arbitrarily prohibited.

Never mind that inmates had regular subscriptions to magazines such as Scientific American, or that they had received books, magazines and catalogs from publishers for years. None of that mattered under the new policy unilaterally imposed by the warden.

Center attorneys argued that the restrictive policy violated the inmates' First Amendment rights while serving no legitimate penological purpose. In a matter of months, the warden withdrew his restrictive policy and settled the case without a trial.