Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Florida Inmates Challenge Jail’s Postcard-Only Policy

with 5 comments

The AP and the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun both have reports on policies in a handful of Florida counties that limit jail inmates’ mail to postcards only (with exceptions for legal correspondence). Jail officials say that the policy both cuts down on contraband and gets inmates their mail faster since it’s easier to sort. However, a group of Manatee County inmates have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the policy as a First Amendment violation. From the AP article:

Manatee’s policy, begun in June, even restricts writing to blue or black ink, and bars drawings of any kind. Jail officials say the restrictions prevent gang symbols and communication.

Attorneys for the Manatee inmates and relatives, James E. Felman and Katherine Earle Yanes, filed a 22-page amended complaint Feb. 18 alleging the rule unfairly limits the inmates’ primary means of communication.

It even prevents relatives from sending children’s drawings or family pictures, the complaint alleges.

Yanes said most inmates are being detained pretrial, and haven’t even been convicted of wrongdoing.

“The First Amendment protects the rights of inmates, just like it protects the rights of everyone in this country,” she said. “It’s not only the inmates’ rights that are implicated in this, but the rights of anyone who wants to communicate to inmates.” …

Case law may be on the jails’ side, said John F. Stinneford, assistant professor of law at the University of Florida. Stinneford said courts have found similar jail restrictions constitutional if they represent a legitimate government interest [such as security].

“Obviously, there are certain types of communication the prisoners won’t be able to receive via postcard,” Stinneford said. “But I’m not sure that is going to be big enough of a problem to overcome.”

Written by sara

March 1, 2010 at 7:15 am

5 Responses

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  1. My husband is in Highlands county jail, and I don’t see where he is getting his mail any faster….. I send postcards everyday, and he goes days without getting any mail, and then he will get a weeks worth at one time! I think this is a stupid policy, and I think part of it is sheer laziness on the staff’s part.

    Jennifer Weverink

    March 31, 2010 at 11:27 am

    • Hi Jennifer!
      I don’t know if you know or remember me.I was a youthleader with your”Serve”team in Grandrapids,Michigan,I think.Off course I could be dead wrong and mine sincere apologies.I hope everything will work out for you with you and your husband. I will pray for you and your husband.
      May God bless you and your family .
      Be God’s,Klaas.

      klaas wierenga

      December 10, 2010 at 5:33 pm

  2. Jennifer — Thanks very much for sharing your perspective. It’s so important to hear firsthand from those who are directly affected by these policies.


    April 1, 2010 at 11:12 pm

  3. […] motivation, jails in several states have recently issued postcard-only policies, including Florida (as I noted here), Oregon, and most recently, Washington State (as noted in this editorial, praising the change, […]

  4. My son is incarcerated in a county jail in Manatee co. and we are very unhappy about the post cards only policy. He has a very serious case with a trial coming soon, and we have been unable to have any private conversation about his case. Unfortunately, someone has told the prosecution about some of our planning due to the fact that the jail personnal read our postcards, and apparently think they have the right to discuss it. My hands are tied in my efforts to get any help, and I am very upset and frustrated about it.

    karla hewitt

    March 28, 2012 at 4:07 am

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