QUESTION: On Monday, a U.S. District Judge ruled that the Morgan County Jail needs to adopt a policy within seven days whereby the jail must notify senders of mail whose mail to an inmate is confiscated and provide an opportunity to contest the confiscation. The decision is the result of an ACLU lawsuit on behalf of a Morgan County resident who claims she was never notified her mail to a Morgan County inmate was rejected. Do you agree with the judge's decision? Why or why not?
Mail senders didn’t forfeit their rights
While prisoners have forfeited many of their civil liberties, a person writing to an inmate deserves the courtesy of knowing when mail is withheld. One solution is to return the unacceptable mail along with a copy of Missouri inmate mail regulations. The reason for the rejection will be evident. There may not be a budget for this now, but the District Judge ruling would make it necessary.
Illegal mail must be taken seriously
While working my way through college (1960), I worked at the GPO in Kansas City at the “wreck table” station. In those days we had the motto “come hell or high water the mail must go through”. While we all strived to comply with that motto, we also had the obligation to open mail if wrongdoing or contraband was suspected.
Hence, I spent most of my time at the wreck table where we were authorized by the Postmaster General, to open any suspicious mail, especially packages. I recall that one of the more prolific violations were packages with book rate postage (the least expensive postage). If I suspected that the package contained little or no books, I was authorized to open said package, whereby pictures of the package were photographed for the purpose of subsequent prosecution. Another such example sent me to the hospital when I elbowed a mail sack and inhaled powdered insecticide. That incident temporally blinded me and caused me to lose consciousness.
Other such violations were weapons, illegal drugs, solvents etc. etc. This is an old man’s way of making the point that while an inmate has a right to receive mail, there must also be the responsibility to consider contraband and illegal mail of any type.
Senders should have common sense
No, I do not agree with the judges decision. An inmate (prisoner) is anyone who is deprived of personal liberty against his or her will following conviction of a crime. Although not afforded all the privileges of a free citizen, a prisoner is assured certain minimal rights by the U.S. Constitution and the moral standards of the community. I've earned the rights and privileges I enjoy because I do not break the law. I also understand that if for some reason I do break the law and become a prisoner that I will lose the rights of a law abiding citizen. Morgan County provides a detainee handbook which is given to each detainee. Although I don't have access to it or have read it, I'd feel confident in saying that somewhere in that handbook is guidelines to what can be sent to a detainee.
Page 2 of 2 - A little common sense by those sending mail/packages to a detainee should understand that it will all be searched and those materials/items not allowed will be confiscated. Instead of the ACLU bringing a lawsuit they should have taken the Morgan County resident to task for not determining what is and isn't allowed to be sent to prisoners and not waste tax payers dollars with whimsical lawsuits.
The Morgan County resident should take responsibilities for their own actions. If they think nothing changes when someone enters the prison system then it is their own fault when they don't follow regulations.