More than 50 organizations call on Sheriff Brown to reverse new jail mail restriction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 8, 2013

Contact:
Leah Sakala
(413) 527-0845

Easthampton, MA — Today, more than 50 national and local organizations sent a letter to Santa Barbara County, California, Sheriff Bill Brown asking him to cancel a proposed plan to prohibit people confined at the county jail from receiving letters from home. The new policy is to go in to effect on Monday, and, according to news reports, would require incoming correspondence to take place via postcards only.

The letter points out that postcard-only jail mail policies run contrary to best practices identified by the corrections profession. "All federal and state prisons, and almost all county jails, successfully screen incoming mail without resorting to extreme postcard-only policies," said Leah Sakala, Policy Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative and author of the report "Return to Sender: Postcard-only Mail Policies in Jail."

The policy was developed without public input, said Anni Telfer, a local resident. After Telfer and other community members learned that the policy had been announced via postings at the jail, they brought it up at a County Board meeting on Tuesday morning.

"The jail is 50 miles away from the North County homes of most of the people in the jail, so letters are one of the only ways to stay in touch," said Steve Stormoen, a Lompoc resident who attended the County Board meeting and has also written about the postcard-only policy. "This policy punishes the families of people in jail as much as the incarcerated people themselves."

News coverage of the County Board meeting alerted national criminal justice policy organizations, who quickly put together the sign on letter against the mail restriction. "These postcard-only policies are an unfortunate fad among some county sheriffs," said Sakala. "But Sheriff Brown owes it to the taxpayers of Santa Barbara County to weigh all of the costs before severing essential communication between county residents."

The full text of the letter, including a list of signers, is available at http://www.prisonpolicy.org/postcards/sb-sign-on-letter.html

The Prison Policy Initiative report on postcard-only mail policies is available at http://www.prisonpolicy.org/postcards/ .

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