Postcards vs. Letters – Continued
In August of 2013, prisonpath.com posted an article about prisons and jails that forbid letters to inmates, but will allow only postcards. The Hillsborough County jail, in Florida, started their restriction in September of 2013. In 2010, a federal judge in Tampa upheld the postcard rule in another Florida county. The court held that “lawful incarceration brings about the necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and rights.” The court stated that the inmate’s constitutional rights must be weighed against the need for order and security.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation filed a lawsuit last week against Cape Girardeau County, challenging the constitutionality of the postcard-only policy for family and friends of inmates.
The ACLU-MO represents Cheryl Simpson, who would regularly send her son two and three-page double-sided letters. Under the new policy, she would need to use over 40 postcards (costing over $15.00 in postage) to send the same personal information she would send in one envelope with a 49¢ stamp to her son.
A major key to successful rehabilitation has always involved maintaining close family ties for the inmates. In order to have a successful family unit, you need communication. Many families do not have the funds to travel to the prison or jail that is incarcerating their family member. Private letters connect the inmate to the outside world. Letters allow the discussion of family relationships, financial problems, health issues, and the eventual re-entry into society.
The prisons and jails that have only post card policies argue that such restrictions prevent the smuggling of contraband and coded communications between gang members. Such arguments are weak since all envelopes addressed to inmates are opened by correctional officers in other prisons and jails and certainly gang members can use code on postcards as well as letters.
A postcard-only policy impairs the chance for successful rehabilitation of an inmate. In 2013, a federal court in Oregon found Columbia County’s similar policy unconstitutional.
Letters are often the one means of communication a family can afford. Travel is not an option due to distance to the prisons and the excessive price of gas, more often than not. And communication is a necessity for both sides of the wire. It helps to keep a bond between parent and child. Separation from family is punishment enough. Children, wives, mothers, ect. Need not be tormented further by more strange laws on the books. I believe it to be cruel and abusive.
So do elderly parents! Many are in prison for so long, for non-violent offenses, that they never get to see their parents again. How long does it take for offenders to realize they made a mistake, a lifetime? They need letters, not harassment.
I just sent 28 postcards to inmates. No possible way to discuss ‘their business’ in a card. Still, I’m hoping a greeting is better than nothing. Glad to have the option of letters, so legal discussions, strategies possible.
Pictures must also be mailed as postcards. It’s really not easy at all to communicate when there is no envelope.
Prison should be a positive experience. Rehab is next to nil. Separation from families is punishment enough. Prisoners need to retain their dignity and have the support of families, and for many, letters continue the bond. It gives them a ray of Hope. Punishment day in and day out, deprivations, and isolation accomplish nothing positive. Vengeance by the keepers of the key are also harmful and should not be allowed.