Most state prisons allow books and cards, but require that books come directly from a publisher, not third parties. This move makes no sense, since all studies show that education is THE best way to reduce recidivism. Ms. Marsha Pawlina sent me this article, and she said the prison was opening and copying legal mail before giving it to inmates – clearly illegal.
The disdain for law among prison officials is notorious for those of us who have SEEN prison operations. I saw them steal money intended for inmates at Delaware D O C. I would not be surprised if this warden*, and hundreds more across the country, was getting illegal kickbacks by the private supplier and many other prison contractors. Good luck getting the feds to investigate such things; their heads are in the sand.
As with most terrible prison policies, they claim it is for “security” reasons, which is total BS: guards smuggle in far, far, far more contraband than the inmates!
*Coleman is where prison staff allowed Joel Kerscher to die instead of providing the medical care he needed. I have all the details from Joel’s family, who will never get over it. So we already know that the warden there is a major asshole!
Excerpts from the Article
While they’re locked up, inmates rely on books and letters to learn new skills and keep in contact with their loved ones and the outside world. But administrators in charge of the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman, Florida, have suddenly banned prisoners from receiving books, greeting cards, and letters written in crayon or marker, according to internal memos first obtained by the Families Against Mandatory Minimums foundation. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida tells New Times it’s researching how to fight the move.
According to the memos, Coleman warden R.C. Cheatham says the changes would take effect May 14 at the Central Florida compound. He doesn’t specify why the changes are being made, but at least one reason seems to be profit-driven: Cheatham says the only way inmates will now be allowed to obtain books is by purchasing them from internal prison suppliers, which charge a 30 percent tax.
“Effective Monday, May 14, 2018, books from a publisher, book club, bookstore, or friends and family will no longer be accepted through the mail,” Cheatham’s memo reads. “Books will be rejected by mailroom staff and returned to sender.”
In a separate memo the next day, he bluntly writes that “all ‘homemade’ and commercial greeting cards will be rejected.” He adds that inmate letters written on nonwhite paper or card stock or in crayon or marker (the kinds of writing implements children use) will also be returned. And, as of May 14, envelopes from lawyers will be photocopied and given to inmates.
“You will not get to keep the original envelope,” the memo reads. Spokespeople for the Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to New Times’ request for comment.
Coleman federal prison in #FL has banned all books sent to prisoners from friends and families. Books must be ordered through the prison at a 30% markup plus shipping. This is outrageous. https://goo.gl/aMC1hr #thread #BOPsoPetty
The ACLU of Florida says the plan is backwards, harmful, and cruel.
“As we all know, 83 percent of folks who are incarcerated end up returning back into society,” says Melba Pearson, the ACLU of Florida’s deputy director. “So the question now is ‘What kind of neighbor to do you want?’ Someone who has a connection with the outside world, who’s been reading and educating themselves and spending time improving themselves? Someone will be better positioned to get a job if they read, and if someone is very intent on reading and focused on those kinds of educational activities, he or she is less likely to be fighting or engaging in other behaviors that are dangerous to others who are incarcerated.”
“And the fact that they’re adding a 30 percent tax when they’re forcing you to buy books through the prison, that’s simply the prison system trying to get money from inmates any way they can,” she adds.
Earlier this year, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision instituted a similar, statewide rule that forced inmates to buy or receive books from only a handful of approved book sellers. The so-called package ban also applied to fresh food, clothing, and some household items. After numerous activists and inmates denounced the measure as cruel, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reversed his state’s decision.
Kids can no longer send handmade cards or even store-bought cards to their parents for birthdays or holidays.
“Educational opportunities are already few and far between for prisoners, so it is critically important that prisoners have easy access to books,” FAMM wrote, adding in another post: “If our leaders care about families, they should stop proposing and passing these petty and cruel rules.”