ACLU Files Suit Over Colorado Jail’s Postcard-only Policy
The ACLU of Colorado has filed suit against the Boulder County Jail, challenging its recently implemented postcard-only policy for inmate correspondence as a violation of inmates’ First Amendment rights:
According to the class action lawsuit filed in federal district court in Denver, the postcard-only policy has forced prisoners to either abandon important correspondence or risk divulging highly confidential, sensitive information to anyone who will handle or see a postcard. As a result, gay prisoners have been chilled from expressing themselves when writing to their intimate partners. Prisoners with HIV or Hepatitis C have refrained from corresponding with family members about their medical conditions. Prisoners who express themselves through drawings or cartoons cannot enclose their art. Those who wish to share an inspirational religious tract, or a clipping from a newspaper or magazine, are forbidden from doing so. When children may have access to the mailbox, parents are chilled from writing to their spouses about marital problems, child-raising issues, and other matters they do not wish to disclose to their children. The policy also prevents prisoners from using envelopes to send letters that seek spiritual guidance from clergy, provide sensitive information to investigative reporters, or to submit articles or letters to newspapers or other periodicals for publication.
The policy was adopted after an incident in which two inmates sent letters to Boulder-area children by forwarding the letters through a third party. David Fathi of the ACLU National Prison Project said that he understands the jail’s need to respond to this situation, but that the policy adopted “is an over-reaction” and the jail could have come up with a less restrictive alternative. The plaintiffs’ complaint and other court documents can be downloaded here.