Law Students Win Free-Speech Suit for Federal Prisoner

By: An inmate represented by three law students won a First Amendment lawsuit giving federal inmates the right to publish news stories under their own names.

Mark Jordan, serving time at the government's ultra-high-security Supermax prison in Florence, Colo., sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons over a policy barring inmates from writing bylined stories for the news media.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger in Denver ruled in Jordan's favor on Aug. 9, saying the policy violated the prisoners' First Amendment rights.

Jordan is serving time for bank robbery and for stabbing another inmate to death at another federal prison in Florence. He has 41 years remaining on his term.

Prison officials punished him in 2001 for publishing under his byline. He had published several stories on prison life in Off!, a New York publication.

Krieger's ruling said the Bureau of Prisons may not punish any inmate who decides to publish under a byline.

The government had argued that performing as a reporter or publishing under a byline could give inmates undue prominence among other prisoners, making them a security risk. The government also expressed concern that inmates could turn writing into a business.

"No historical evidence that any inmate's publications in the news media created such security problems were presented," Krieger wrote.

Jordan was represented by University of Denver law students Donald Bounds, Jack Hobaugh and Michelle Young under the direction of law professor Laura Lee Rovner.

Rovner was out of the country and could not be reached.


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