August 5, 2011 in City

Postcard-only policy at jail ends

Envelopes OK again after settlement agreement
By The Spokesman-Review
 

A postcards-only policy for mail to Spokane County jail inmates has been lifted. Envelopes are OK again.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said the change took effect this week when a federal judge approved a settlement between the county and Prison Legal News – an arm of the nonprofit Human Rights Defense Center.

Prison Legal News sued the county for blocking delivery of its publications and solicitations.

In addition to limiting inmate mail to postcards, the Spokane County Jail and Geiger Corrections Center adopted a policy last year of allowing inmates to receive only certain publications.

County commissioners agreed July 19 to pay $230,000 to settle the Prison Legal News lawsuit. Besides lifting arbitrary restrictions on publications, the settlement ended the postcard policy for personal mail.

Knezovich said he was frustrated that the county backed away from the policy even though it hadn’t been found unconstitutional and wasn’t part of the lawsuit.

“We went away from the issue without even at least trying to make a stand on it,” Knezovich said.

Prison Legal News attorney Jesse Wing said the postcard requirement “had a pretty substantial chilling effect on speech” because cards hold only a few sentences and eliminate all privacy.

The settlement allows a judge to restore the postcard requirement for incoming personal mail if the U.S. Supreme Court or federal appellate courts find similar policies are permissible.

Knezovich said the postcard policy reduced costs. He said he will have to hire at least one person to screen letters for contraband.


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