County OKs $60K settlement on short-lived jail postcard policy | county, settlement, policy - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO
El Paso County Commissioners on Thursday approved a $60,000 proposed settlement in a lawsuit over a former jail policy that restricted inmates’ outgoing correspondence to postcards.
The board weighed the cost of settling against continuing the case, said Commissioner Sallie Clark. The board met in a closed executive session last week to discuss the lawsuit.
“We thought it was in the best interest to settle, so as not to incur more costs,” she said.
The money will be taken out of the county’s self-insurance pool — restricted funding that every department pays to cover anything from minor mishaps, such as a snowplow taking out a resident’s mailbox, to property damage to county buildings or vehicles, to lawsuits, said county spokesman Dave Rose.
The class-action lawsuit filed in September by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and the National Prison Project of the ACLU Foundation on behalf of seven inmates sought compensation for legal fees and did not seek monetary damages for the clients.
The Sheriff’s Office would not comment Thursday on the agreement.
“It has still not been settled; it has to be ruled on before federal court,” said Jackie Kirby, director of information for the Sheriff’s Office.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Wiley Y. Daniel is expected to consider the agreement by Monday, said assistant county attorney Cole Emmons.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa instituted a policy at the county jail on Aug. 2, 2010, that required inmates to use 4x6 inch postcards for written communication, with the exception of legal correspondence.
Maketa said the intent was to save money and staff time in screening outgoing mail, and keep the facility more secure.
The lawsuit claimed that the policy violated inmates’ free speech and privacy rights, since postcards can be read by anyone and limit how much can be written. The ACLU also contended that many jail inmates are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of any crime.
In December, after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction halting the policy, Maketa said he had already decided to rescind it.