Federal Judge Blocks Jail’s Post-Card Only Policy

A federal judge in Oregon has granted a preliminary injunction to prevent the implementation of a jail policy that would restrict inmate mail to a postcard:

The Columbia County Jail instituted the postcard-only policy in March 2010 for both incoming and outgoing mail. The policy led to the censorship of many magazines and other publications, including various publications by Prison Legal News.

PLN sued in federal court last January, contending that the policy violated the First Amendment. PLN publishes a monthly journal of prison news and numerous other books about the criminal justice system. The group alleged that many of its works were not delivered to inmates. The jail did revise its mail policy, allowing inmates to receive the Prison Legal News’ monthly journal which goes by the same name as the group.

The jail contended that the policy was rationally related to both safety and the efficient use of the jails’ limited resources. Judge Simon rejected these arguments. As to the safety argument, Prison Legal News pointed out that before the postcard-only policy jail officials opened inmate letters to check for contraband. Simon wrote that the officials “have failed to offer evidence or even an intuitive, common-sense reason why the postcard-only mail policy more effectively prevents the introduction of contraband than opening and inspecting letters.”

Story here