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Protecting Letters from Home
Letter writing provides incarcerated people with an inexpensive way to stay in touch with their families and preserve ties to their communities. These connections are critical for successful reentry, but several jails around the country have experimented with harmful letter bans that limit the personal mail incarcerated people can receive to postcards. Postcards are an expensive alternative to letters, and they provide no privacy or room to attach important documents.
To help protect letter writing in jails, we have released two reports that highlight the importance of written correspondence and identify the agencies responsible for enforcing mail guidelines in jails. We hope that continued attention to this costly and ineffective policy will encourage all jails to acknowledge that postcards are not an acceptable substitute for letters from home.
Praise for Return to Sender:
“This report is required reading for policy makers and anyone working with individuals in jail custody.”
-National Institute of Corrections
On March 8, 2013, more than 50 local and national organizations submitted a letter to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff calling on him to halt implementation of a postcard-only jail mail policy (press release).
In September 2014, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department announced that it has ended the ban.
The residents of Santa Clara County, California stood up to their sheriff for proposing a postcard-only policy: