Jail, prison news publication still talking

The supervisor of the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center in Winchester said Friday he is still confident of reaching an out of court resolution to a federal lawsuit challenging a decision to ban mailed publications from the facility.

Lawyers for the Northwestern Regional Jail Authority filed court papers Wednesday denying or refusing to admit most of the accusations contained in the lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News, a Florida-based publication seeking permission for its journal and affiliated publications to be distributed among jail inmates.

Despite the appearance of a hard line in the recently filed court documents, James F. Whitley said negotiations between the jail administration and Prison Legal News are continuing.

“Behind the scenes, we’re still discussing policy changes,” Whitley said of negotiations with Prison Legal News. He added that he hoped to reach a resolution of the case sometime before a two-day jury trial is scheduled to begin April 28 before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Dillon in Harrisonburg.

The suit stems from a decision in 2014 to ban publications, including Prison Legal News, that are mailed to inmates from outside the jail. Whitley has cited the need to keep contraband from being smuggled into the jail through mailed items as the reason for the ban. The limited storage space available for inmates’ personal property was also a factor in imposing the ban.

Prison Legal News specializes in providing information to inmates on their constitutional rights and ways to protect themselves against threats to the health and safety.

Since the original lawsuit was filed, Prison Legal News has dropped the jail itself as a defendant in the case, although the Northwestern Regional Jail Authority, Whitley and more than 10 other individuals who work in the jail remain as defendants.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com