The Pen is Mightier Than the Pen

Back in November Westword published "The Poisoned Pen of Fort Lyon," which examined the toxic history of Fort Lyon, a frontier fort turned veterans' hospital turned prison. Since the place was turned over to the Colorado Department of Corrections in 2001, there have been numerous instances of inmates being exposed to asbestos contamination.

The article was sent to a modest contingent of readers in state prisons — yes, we have a fan base in the joint — only to be intercepted by DOC staff at several facilities, including Fort Lyon itself.

Prison administrators failed to notify us of this action, contrary to the terms of settlement of a lawsuit over censorship that this newspaper and the ACLU brought against the state several years ago. We complained, officials looked into the matter, and the article was soon circulating freely behind bars.

This month our coverage of Fort Lyon gets a second run; it's reprinted as the cover story of the latest issue of Prison Legal News, a publication that's fought countless censorship battles around the country as it seeks to inform prisoners about their rights and trends in the corrections industry. "In many respects this is a microcosm of many prisons in the United States," PLN editor Paul Wright muses about Fort Lyon in his monthly column. "The negative aspects of prisons on the environment itself, and on the prisoners housed in them, has rarely been explored or discussed by the media."

And it's even rarer that such a story reaches the people most affected by it. Fortunately, PLN knows how to grab a captive audience. –- Alan Prendergast

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Sean Cronin