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Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Sheriff Clamps Down On Inmates' Correspondence

The Gazette

Inmates at the El Paso County jail are no longer allowed to mail personal letters in envelopes and are instead forced to use postcards, a policy shift the ACLU of Colorado says is a violation of First Amendment rights.
The policy, which took effect Thursday, allows Criminal Justice Center inmates to pay 50 cents for a 4x6 postcard for letters sent to family or friends.
All inmate correspondence has previously been screened by jail staff for potential escape plots, for example. Forcing inmates to correspond only in a way that can be read by anyone outside the jail infringes on free speech, said Mark Silverstein, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.
“It affects the First Amendment rights of prisoners and people in the free world who wish to receive that correspondence,” Silverstein said.
It was unclear Friday what prompted the policy change. A sheriff’s spokeswoman did not return calls for comment.
The policy does not affect legal correspondence.
Poor inmates will be provided with one envelope and two blank pages for legal correspondence, according to an intra-office memorandum from Cmdr. WIlliam Mistretta, which was sent to the Gazette by an inmate. Non-indigent inmates can purchase legal envelopes and paper from the jail.
“All outgoing legal letters will be checked to ensure address (sic) is a legal source,” the memorandum says.
“Imagine if you will your husband or wife receiving a personal letter already read by county sheriff staff. Detainees at CJC await transport and/or trial therefore have not been convicted of any crime. How then is it possible to take away there (sic) right to personal private mail?” inmate James Gregory Malveaux wrote in a letter to the Gazette.
Silverstein said he spoke with sheriff’s officials Friday and suggested they repeal the policy. He would not comment on their response or if the ACLU is considering suing the Sheriff’s Office.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Outrageous!!! These gustapo tactics by invading inmates constituional rights of deprivation of a human right to send and receive mail by a post card is inhumane! Correspondence is the life-line between inmates and their families. The correctional system simply is creating a time-bomb that will explore when imates are denied writing and expressing the feelings that keeps them human. Without expression of self is creating an animal - an animal without feelings will not care and therefore -create more misery within the locked-up environment for all to suffer and pay for in the long run. San Quintin mentality has arisen again!!!