A federal judge says the Indiana Department of Correction can’t enforce a policy that stipulates inmates only receive mail on lined, white paper while a lawsuit challenging the rule makes its way through the courts.
The judge granted the preliminary injunction earlier this week.
The IDOC issued an executive directive in March 2017 that regulates what types of mail inmates can receive from people other than their attorneys. The most recent version of the rules stipulates any correspondence must come in a plain white envelope, and be on original white, lined paper. That includes photos and printed articles.
The DOC says the rule makes it easier for prison staff to determine whether any liquid narcotics are concealed in the paper.
The ACLU of Indiana is representing DOC inmates in a class action lawsuit challenging the policy. Legal Director Ken Falk says it violates their First Amendment rights.
"They do have a right to receive information when there is no legitimate penological reason to restrict that," Falk says.
The DOC photocopies all mail before distributing it to inmates at two of its facilities. Falk says that policy could be expanded.
He says the idea of printing legal documents or lengthy articles on lined paper is ridiculous.
"What would happen if you went to Kinkos and said, 'I have a 300 page transcript here for my son who's doing something pro se to challenge his conviction, could you print it out for me on white, lined paper – not photocopied white lined paper – original, white lined paper.' They'd look at you like you had three heads."
Falk says they've heard from inmates and families who say the poilcy is making it hard to communicate. That includes one inmate who's representing himself in a divorce.
"He went to the institution’s law library and got the forms and drew up the paperwork, sent it to his wife so she could sign off on it," Falk says. "She sent it back so it could be filed and it couldn’t come in because it wasn’t on original white, lined paper."
The injunction will take effect 30 days after the judge granted the motion.
A spokesperson for the DOC says its legal team is reviewing the judge’s decision.
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