CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A lawsuit was filed Tuesday against Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael and several other members of the department over alleged censorship of certain publications sent to prisoners at the Mecklenburg County Jail.
The lawsuit was filed by the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), a not-for-profit group that publishes several books and magazines they say are meant to "educate prisoners and the public about the destructive nature of racism, sexism, and the economic and social costs of prisons to society."
HRDC claims that at least 144 items of mail sent to prisoners being held at the Mecklenburg County Jail were not delivered. The lawsuit states that at least one of HRDC's publications, 'Prison Legal News: Dedicated to Protecting Human Rights,' is listed as one of the jail's banned magazines. The group says the magazine does not fit the criteria for the ban.
"Such restrictions on written speech sent to prisoners in the Mecklenburg County Jail are not rationally related to any legitimate penological interest and violate HRDC's First Amendment right to communicate its speech with prisoners," the lawsuit states.
According to the document, several publications were sent back to HRDC from the jail with a stamp indicating they were "Against Jail Policy" with a handwritten note from the jail saying the magazines or books were "not allowed," "banned," or on the banned list.
The lawsuit states jail personnel haven't explained the justification for not allowing the publications, and haven't allowed HRDC an opportunity to challenge the jail on the banned magazines list decision.
HRDC believes the jail employees' "actions and inactions were and are motivated by ill motive and intent," according to the lawsuit.
The Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office has not released a statement about the lawsuit or the allegations.