Rape Activists Applaud Ruling Allowing Prisoners access to Internet Information

September 16, 2002

LOS ANGELES – The nonprofit human rights group Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR) today praised a federal judge’s ruling that will allow Pelican Bay prisoners to receive mail containing material printed from the Internet.

A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled Sept. 11 that prisoners have a First Amendment right to receive Internet material and entered a permanent injunction barring the California Department of Corrections from "enforcing any policy prohibiting California inmates from receiving mail that contains Internet-generated information."

SPR, an organization dedicated to ending sexual violence against men, women, and youth in all forms of detention, submitted a declaration in support of the case. “We are very pleased with the judge’s decision. We can now continue to reach survivors of sexual assault in California prisons,” said Lara Stemple, executive director of SPR.

As a small nonprofit, SPR simply cannot afford to publish materials other than on the Internet. The California Department of Corrections policy, which prohibited inmates at the prison from receiving any mail that contains material printed from the Internet, severely hindered its ability to reach prisoners in California.

On their Web site,, SPR publishes legal information, survivor stories, commentary, survivor-to-survivor advice, a list of opportunities to speak out about abuse, as well as news articles and publications on sexual violence behind bars.

Because long-term consequences of prisoner rape may include post-traumatic stress disorder, rape trauma syndrome, substance abuse, and suicide, linking survivors to others who have lived through the experience is critical.

Stemple insists, “SPR’s Web site gives survivors a chance to connect with one another, and when you are isolated, ashamed, and afraid, that connection can be a matter of life and death.”

The landmark case Clement v. California Department of Corrections was brought on behalf of Pelican Bay prisoner Frank Clement by the ACLU of Northern California and the Prison Law Office.

The judge’s injunction is likely to effect the seven other correction institutions in California with similar policies in place, including San Quentin State Prison; Avenal State Prison; California Correctional Center in Susanville; California Correctional Institute in Tehachapi; California State Prison in Sacramento; Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown; and Wasco State Prison.