A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit regarding inmate mail at the Livingston County Jail.

The suit was filed over the jail's refusal to distribute a journal titled Prison Legal News. The suit was filed by the Human Rights Defense Center on behalf of Prison Legal News against Livingston County, former Sheriff Bob Bezotte and Lieutenant Tom Cremonte. Prison Legal News sued the Sheriff's Office in 2011, saying a policy of limiting most incoming and outgoing mail to postcards banned the delivery of its journal and was unconstitutional.

Under the settlement reached, the Livingston County Jail must accept up to 30 subscriptions per month of the publication addressed to specific inmates and deliver it. The Jail must also deliver up to 30 books per month addressed to specific inmates, provided the inmates are still housed at the jail.

Sheriff Mike Murphy pointed out that Livingston is a county jail and while they do have inmates serving sentences for extended lengths of time, their average length of stay is 14 days. Since they are not a long term facility, he says by the time Prison Legal News gets the jail’s inmate list, 90% of those that the “gift” is given to are gone and they’re left with “a pile of crap” to dispose of.

In entering into the settlement agreement, Livingston County denied any wrongdoing. The agreement states that the Center understands and agrees the settlement is not an admission of liability. Murphy told WHMI there are now no more outstanding lawsuits against the Sheriff’s Office. He commented the county has been targeted because in the past it had not fully litigate cases, instead opting to settle them. He says the county is no longer an easy target and has changed its approach, which is evidenced by the fact there are no other pending lawsuits currently. Murphy says other jail facilities have a postcard policy and Prison Legal News all but admitted the county was targeted because of their settlement history. He says that has changed now and they’ll be taking everything as far as they can if they are not in the wrong.

The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be filed again. Requests for comment from Prison Legal news have gone unreturned. (JM)