Thursday, March 25, 2010

Postcards from Prison

Jails Use Mail Restrictions to Combat Contraband and Lower Costs

Starting April 1, prisoners in a central Florida jail will see big changes in one of the ways they communicate with friends and family.

The Alachua County Jail, which holds 950 inmates, is instituting a new "postcards only" mail policy, which restricts inmates to sending and receiving postcards that meet certain requirements.

It's a major change from the previous policy, which allowed inmates to write full-page letters sealed in envelopes, with no limit on the amount of pages. The only exceptions to this new rule will be privileged or legal mail.

Alachua follows the lead of jails in Arizona, Oregon, Missouri, Michigan, Colorado, Kansas, and other parts of Florida, including the Manatee County Jail, just south of St. Petersburg.

Manatee began a postcards-only policy last June, and spokesman Dave Bristow calls it "a big success.

"It has really cut down on work load, and that's what we were trying to do," Bristow added.

Alachua County spokesman Eugene Morris said the policy will help improve security while saving the jail money.

"We have a concern about contraband being introduced that may be coming through the mail," Morris told

Contraband is less likely to enter the jail on postcards than in envelopes, but because of an incident in which an inmate received drugs through the adhesive on a stamp, the policy adds an extra measure of protection: No stickers or adhesives, including stamps. Plain white, pre-paid-postage only. No drawings, no photographs.

Morris said the new policy will speed up the process of sorting through the estimated 400 pieces of mail moving in and out of the jail on any given day.

Despite county officials' satisfaction with the policy, several inmates and their family members are not happy with the restrictions. They say the policy infringes on their First Amendment rights. A group of Manatee County inmates and their families have filed a class-action lawsuit against the jail.

Katherine Earle Yanes, an attorney hired by the families, said the plaintiffs want to end the policy and declare it unconstitutional. Yanes added that they want to "set a precedent so that it would not be able to be instituted at other facilities."


  1. Hi

    I know it's been a while since you posted this, but I'm very keen to write postcards to people in prison. Could you tell me how to get involved in this?


  2. DON'T DO IT ! Don't get involved. You just have no idea how dangerous that is - although your intentions are good.

  3. I think all prisons and jails should be postcard only. i would love to write pen pals in prisons that only use postcards. but i do not have list of prisons that do this so when i look at write a prisoner or prison pen pals i just find most just use letters.

  4. I think this restriction is plainly and unfairly abusive! I understand about the whole stamp thing, but no pictures and photos!?! Are they trying to kill the inmates!? This is torture! This is completely insane! I do hope the attorney wins this game!

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