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.
On this page:
Jail postcard-only Policies in the news
- Md. drops plan to halt drug smuggling by banning letters to prisoners, by Fenit Nirappil, The Washington Post, July 20, 2016
- Maryland Withdraws Proposal to Ban Letters to Inmates, by Juliet Linderman and Brian White, ABC News, July 20, 2016
- Kansas jail’s postcard policy leads to lawsuit, by Tony Rizzo, The Kansas City Star, April 28, 2016
- Judge orders jail to inform inmates when mail rejected, by Lisa Roose-Church, Livingston Daily, April 1, 2016
- PLN Settles Lawsuit against Florida Jail’s Postcard-only Policy, Prison Legal News, February 2, 2016
- Florida Jail Ends Postcard-Only Policy as Part of Settlement, by David Reutter, Prison Legal News, February 2, 2016
- PLN Challenges Postcard-only Policy at Jail in Knoxville, TN, by Alex Friedmann, Prison Legal News, October 26, 2015
- Prison Legal News Scores Victory in Rural Georgia, by Eva Fedderly, Courthouse News Service, October 13, 2015
- Macomb sheriff loosens policy for jail inmate mail, by Jameson Cook, The Macomb Daily, September 8, 2015
- ACLU Wins Jail Letter Lawsuit, by Rick Pluta, WMUK, August 12, 2015
- New Morgan County inmate mail policy starts, by Ashley Remkus, Decatur Daily, August 2, 2015
- New policy prohibits inmates from receiving mail in envelopes, by Ashley Remkus, Decatur Daily, July 8, 2015
- Judge: Jail postcard-only rule unconstitutional, by Pauline Repard, U-T San Diego, May 10, 2015
- Jail letter ban should be reconsidered, letter to the editor by Leah Sakala, Cecil Whig, March 16, 2015
- Drug smuggling causes jail mail policy change, by Carl Hamilton, Cecil Whig, March 10, 2015
- Kansas District Court Ends Wyandotte County Jail's "Postcard-Only" Mail Policy, American Civil Liberties Union, February 24, 2015
- ACLU challenges Wyandotte County Jail’s postcard-only policy for inmates, by Mark Morris, Kansas City Star, October 1, 2013
- Hillsborough jails to limit incoming inmate mail to postcards, by Jessica Vander Velde, Tampa Bay Times, August 17, 2013
- Santa Clara County jail inmates will continue receiving mail, by Joe Rodriguez, San Jose Mercury News, August 9, 2013
- Community Activists Cite Civil Rights Concerns with Jail Mail Policy Changes, by Jennifer Wadsworth, San Jose Inside, July 17, 2013
- Don't limit inmates to postcards, Leah Sakala, letter to the editor in the Sun Herald (Gulfport, Mississippi), June 12, 2013
- Jail officials brace for public meeting on restrictive mail policy, by Tracey Kaplan, Mercury News, June 4, 2013
- All mail at Santa Clara County jail to be limited to small postcards, by Tracey Kaplan, Mercury News, May 18, 2013
- Jail drops postcard-only mail policy, by Ray King, The Commercial (Pine Bluff, Arkansas), May 17, 2013
- Restricting inmates' mail unconstitutional, federal judge rules in Columbia County Jail case, AP, The Oregonian, April 25, 2013
- PLN prevails in challenge to postcard-only policy at Columbus County, OR jail, Human Rights Defense Center press release, April 25, 2013
- Flagler sheriff hashing out deal over jail-mail lawsuit, by Julie Murphy, News Journal (Daytona Beach, Florida), March 14, 2013
- Return to Sender, Leah Sakala, letter to the editor printed in The Independent, March 8, 2013
- Lawsuit filed over jail’s postcard-only policy, by Megan Hoye, Palm Coast Observer, February 27, 2013
- ACLU suing Flagler over jail mail policy, by Julie Murphy, News-Journal (Daytona Beach, Florida), February 20, 2013
- Update on first case challenging postcard-only mail policies to go to trial in From the Editor, by Paul Wright Prison Legal News, February, 2013 (page 7)
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.