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The Human Rights Defense Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that advocates in furtherance of the human rights of people held in U.S. detention facilities. This includes people in state and federal prisons, local jails, immigration detention centers, civil commitment facilities, Bureau of Indian Affairs jails, juvenile facilities and military prisons. HRDC is one of the few national opponents to the private prison industry and is the foremost advocate on behalf of the free speech rights of publishers to communicate with prisoners and the right of prisoners to receive publications and communications from outside sources. HRDC also does significant work around government transparency and accountability issues by filing and litigating public records and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cases at the state and federal levels.
HRDC's advocacy efforts include publishing Prison Legal News, a monthly journal that covers criminal justice-related news and developments in prison litigation nationwide. PLN also publishes and distributes self-help reference books for prisoners, and engages in media campaigns and outreach to both prisoners and to the unincarcerated, public speaking and education, and testimony before legislative and regulatory bodies. HRDC's Prison Phone Justice project has helped to reduce the rates of telephone calls made by prisoners in an effort to promote communication between prisoners and those on the outside.