Postcards From Jail: Frugal Safety Move Or ‘Very Dumb Policy’?


A growing number of the nation’s jails are restricting inmates’ incoming mail to postcards to save money and bolster security, reports USA Today. The policy has been implemented this year at jails in Missouri, Kansas, Florida and Arizona, and is planned to go into effect in at least one Oregon county lockup in January. At the Marion County Jail in Oregon, the postcard policy is expected to reduce annual mail-sorting expenses by at least half – about $30,000. Fifteen other jails in the state are also considering it.

An official with the American Jail Association, a nonprofit organization representing more than 70,000 jail professionals, says these policies cut down on costs, contraband items and “hidden messages” such as escape plans. But Elizabeth Alexander, director of the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, says the idea is “a very dumb policy.” “Ninety-five percent of all convicted prisoners come back into the community,” she says. “The two things research shows correlate most with staying out of trouble after release are maintaining contact with family and getting jobs. There’s no way to do that through postcards.”

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