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Letter: Ionia County postcard-only jail mail policy should be canceled

by Peter Wagner, September 28, 2014

A draconian new policy in Michigan’s Ionia County Jail that would ban letters from home is scheduled to take effect today. I just got word that my letter to the editor about this appeared in Friday’s Ionia Sentinel-Standard:

Postcard-only jail mail policy should be canceled

Dear Editor,

The Ionia County Jail’s plan to ban letters from home and instead restrict correspondence to postcards should be canceled. [“Postcards only to jail inmates“, Sept 22]

My organization’s report released last year, “Return to Sender: Postcard-only Policies in Jail,” found that banning letters interrupts the reentry process and increases the chances that people will reoffend in the future. Such policies also present a significant burden to the disproportionately low-income families of people in jail.

All major corrections professional associations know that the social science research is clear: Communication between people in jail and their families and communities should be encouraged, not stifled. No state prison bans all letters, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s national standards explicitly prohibit postcard-only mail restrictions in jails that hold their detainees.

Banning letters is not just bad policy. It’s also unconstitutional. In March, a federal judge in Oregon declared a jail mail letter ban unconstitutional and ordered the county to pay $802,000 in legal fees to the publisher who brought the lawsuit.

Ionia County Sheriff’s Department should honor their commitment to public safety by canceling its postcard-only policy before it goes into effect on Sunday and does real damage.

Peter Wagner
Executive Director
Prison Policy Initiative

One Response

  1. Róisín says, 6 days, 17 hours after publication:

    I cannot believe authorities wanted to ban letter writing in prisons.

    The more I read on your work, the more informed I am of things we, ´civilians´do not know about incarceration in the U.S.

    It makes me conclude Correction Facilities are not about ´CORRECTION`. Rather correction facilities in the U.S. seem to me to be more about: making sure the incarcerated don´t get to go home, and if they do get home, the system is set up so that they come back to prison again.

    Thank you once again for your great work with such limited resources.

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