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ACLU "relieved" state prison officials withdrew emergency proposal that would ban letters to inmates

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Posted at 2:42 PM, Jul 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-21 06:48:02-04

ACLU is "relieved" state officials are withdrawing an emergency proposal that would have banned inmates from receiving personal letters in the mail.

State prison officials proposed the legislation several weeks ago, but the ACLU sent a letter Tuesday night asking for the withdrawal.

"We had concerns as soon as we saw it, but we wanted to make sure fully understood as much as we could about the context," ACLU Staff Attorney Sonia Kumar said.

Officials proposed the ban, after finding the drug Suboxone hidden in letters. The drug is a narcotic, often used to treat drug addicts. It is also a pain reliever, and addictive.

Kumar said the ban would have a huge impact on families, and negatively affect prisoners who will be back out on the streets at the end of their term.

"The best way to improve public safety, improve outcomes, and sort of preserve human dignity is to allow people who are inside, to maintain relationships and ties with their families and communities on the outside," Kumar said.

She added other avenues, like improving staff training and individualized responses to drug detection involving the inmate, are better ways to attain their goal.

Kumar said ACLU has received dozens of calls from concerned family members over the past several weeks and urges prison officials to work with the families to fit everyone's needs.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services issued this statement in reply:

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is withdrawing its request for limiting mail to postcards for offenders in our facilities.

Secretary Stephen T. Moyer will form a focus group to determine the best options for eliminating contraband coming into our facilities through the mail.

The group will also research the most effective procedures to ensure the safety of our staff and those in our custody.