On August 1, the Barrow County Detention Center implemented a new mail policy restricting incoming and outgoing general mail to postcards. The policy change was designed to save money and increase safety according to Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith.
Since the policy was implemented, there have been no formal complaints and only some “initial grumbling” from a few inmates, Smith said.
“Now that they’ve gotten used to it, they don’t have a problem with it,” he added.
Prior to the policy change, detention center personnel had to open each piece of mail searching for contraband. With hundreds of pieces of mail arriving at the detention center daily, the sorting process resulted in the expenditure of numerous man hours.
“It saves money and time,” Smith said. Previously, detention center personnel spent two to three hours a day checking mail for contraband.
At the time the policy was implemented, Smith said the change would eliminate the chance of drugs, gang correspondence, and possibly escape plans being delivered to inmates. Legal correspondence is not affected by the policy.
Several jails across the country have implemented similar policies. Last week, the Gwinnett County Detention Center announced that all incoming mail would be limited to postcards. Outgoing mail and attorney-client correspondence are not affected.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed several lawsuits in Colorado protesting similar restrictions on inmate mailing privileges.
Earlier this month, the ACLU filed suit against the El Paso County Jail in Colorado Springs, Co. over their policy of limiting outgoing mail to 4x6-inch postcards. In August, the ACLU sued the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office over a similarly restrictive mail policy.
In the lawsuit, the ACLU alleges such policies “severely restricts prisoners’ ability to communicate with persons outside the jail, in violation of their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
Smith said the policy does not violate prisoner’s Constitutional rights.
“We’re not infringing on anybody’s rights,” he said. “If we thought we were, we would not have implemented it.”