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I co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative to put the problem of mass incarceration — and the perverse incentives that fuel it — on the national agenda. Over the last 17 years, our campaigns have protected our democracy from the prison system and protected the poorest families in this country from the predatory prison telephone industry. Our reports untangle the statistics and recruit new allies.

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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.

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Taking Action

Jail postcard-only Policies in the news





Other resources on postcard-only jail mail policies

  • Prison Legal News, a monthly news magazine reporting on prisoners' rights, has challenged postcard-only policies in several jails.
  • Special Populations and the Importance of Oversight by Michele Deitch identifies the state-level entities responsible for overseeing local jails in each state.
  • A letter from the ACLU of Northern California to the Sacramento County Sheriff expresses opposition to a proposed postcard-only policy in the county.
  • A letter from the ACLU of Maryland to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in response to a proposed ban on letters to people incarcerated in state facilities.

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