The alleged confiscation of materials sent to detainees at the Morgan County Adult Detention Center prompted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Eastern Missouri to file a lawsuit against Morgan County.
The complaint, filed Tuesday, July 16, alleges that county employees at the detention facility confiscated written materials, including letters, newspaper clippings, photocopies of newspaper and magazine clippings and books unjustly. According to court documents, the plaintiff, Tara Ballenger, a resident of the state of Oregon who communicates with a Morgan County prisoner, was not notified that her materials were not delivered to the detainee, nor were the rejected materials returned to her.
Alleged incidents of non-delivery occurred on June 1, June 5 and June 17, 2013.
Ballenger and the ACLU claim that the jail did not afford Ballenger any opportunities to contest the rejections.
Court documents state it's the jail's policy to not provide notification of confiscation, nor to provide an opportunity to contest rejection decisions.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction from the United States District Court of Western Missouri requiring the jail "upon making a decision to reject written material sent to a detainee, to provide notice and an opportunity to be heard to the sender of the written material."
It also asks for a permanent injection requiring notification.
The ACLU cites 42 U.S.C. § 1983, often called the "section 1983." The section gives protection from "the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws" by persons working under the state.
Ballenger is the representative for what the ACLU hopes will become a class-action lawsuit. Along with the complaint filed Tuesday, the ACLU filed a motion to classify the lawsuit as class-action.
"Others who, like [Ballenger], send written materials to detainees at the Morgan County Adult Detention Center are subject to the same policy and custom of not providing notice of the rejection of written materials or the opportunity contest a rejection decision," supporting documents state. "[Ballenger] is aware of at least three other individuals whose mailings to the individual with whom [Ballenger] correspond have been rejected without notice to the sender or the opportunity to contests the decision to reject the written material."
The ACLU lawsuit comes less than two years after the ACLU filed suit against the Camdenton School District.
Lake Media will update this story with more information from Morgan County as if becomes available.