December 20, 2010
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa’s agreed Monday to a preliminary injunction against a jail policy that limited inmates’ correspondence with relatives and friends to postcards.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado challenged the policy and a similar one in Boulder, and a court hearing for the El Paso case was scheduled for Wednesday. However, the agreement, which was approved by Chief Judge Wiley Y. Daniel of the U.S. District Court in Denver, negated the need for the hearing.
Under the injunction Maketa must allow inmates to write letters in sealed envelopes instead of having to use 4-by-6-inch postcards supplied by the jail.
“We had already made the decision last week to roll back to our previous policy,” Maketa said, adding that he could not comment further because of ongoing negotiations.
The ACLU is negotiating to make the injunction permanent, said Mark Silverstein, legal director for the ACLU of Colorado.
The ACLU claims that postcards violate inmates’ First Amendment and privacy rights since they can be read by anyone and restrict how much can be written.
Maketa instituted the policy in July, to save money and staff time and keep the facility more secure. All outgoing mail is screened by jail staff.
The policy did not apply to legal correspondence. Many jail inmates have not been convicted of a crime and are awaiting trial.
The ACLU said the policy prevented a woman at the Colorado Springs jail from sending drawings to her children, who are too young to read, and also kept inmates from submitting writings to periodicals and sharing materials such as newspaper clippings and religious tracts.
“Today, we celebrate a victory, not only for the First Amendment, but for hundreds of Colorado families,” said Silverstein. “Incarcerated individuals will no longer be forced to avoid personal topics such as medical, financial or relationship issues, simply because their words were in plain sight for everyone to read.”