Challenging “Postcard-Only” Mail Policies

May 17, 2017

In a disturbing new trend that has been sweeping the country, some jails are prohibiting inmates from sending or receiving any mail unless it is written on one side of a small postcard.  Although most jails say they are trying to prevent contraband, few have documented any serious contraband problems with the mail system because they are already allowed to open and search all envelopes and packages that enter or exit the jail. 

Such severe restrictions on inmates’ ability to communicate with their families and loved ones is also counterproductive to public safety since studies have shown that prisoners are less likely to re-offend when they are able to maintain close ties with families and other support networks in the community. 

In 2012, the ACLU of Michigan filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a federal lawsuit challenging several restrictive mail policies at the Livingston County Jail, including its postcard-only policy.  In May 2017, the case settled and several reforms were made, but the postcard-only policy was not eliminated. 

(Prison Legal News v. Bezotte; ACLU Attorneys Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg; Cooperating Attorney Nakisha Chaney.)

Read our Fall 2018 Legal Docket.