Prison Policy Institute Asks Prison to Stop Scanning Mail
The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization, is urging the Washington state government to reconsider its prison mail scanning policies. These policies, in place since October 2021, involve the digitization of personal mail, which is then viewed by inmates via kiosk or tablet. While the Department of Corrections says the policy is for security purposes - to prevent the smuggling of contraband - PPI argues that it is an emotionally harmful practice that infringes on inmates' rights. The organization emphasizes that personal mail is a critical link between inmates and their loved ones, playing a vital role in mental health support and successful post-incarceration reintegration. PPI is now advocating for alternative strategies that maintain security without causing emotional harm or violating privacy rights.
PPI asserts that the emotional impact of these policies has been stark and negative. The digitization process deprives the inmates of physical letters, drawings, and photographs, which are critical elements of human connection. Furthermore, the process also raises severe privacy concerns as every personal correspondence is digitized and kept, potentially indefinitely. The organization is urging the state government to seek other means of ensuring security that would not violate the privacy and emotional well-being of the inmates. While the security concern is valid, the PPI contends there must be a more balanced approach that recognizes the importance of maintaining personal connections for inmate rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
The Department of Corrections, in response to these concerns, maintains that the policy is purely for safety reasons, designed to prevent the smuggling of contraband materials into the prison system. They argue that digitization does not diminish the value or intimacy of personal correspondences, as they are still accessible to the inmates. However, PPI insists that the emotional toll and privacy violations stemming from this policy outweigh the security benefits. As the debate continues, it remains to be seen whether a compromise can be reached that both preserves security and respects the rights and emotional well-being of inmates.
PPI argues that the prison mail scanning policies are a reflection of the larger issue of mass incarceration and its harmful effects on inmates and their families. By restricting personal mail, the policies further isolate and dehumanize inmates, rather than promoting rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society. The organization is calling for a more humane approach to prison reform that prioritizes the mental health and well-being of inmates.
Ultimately, the PPI's advocacy serves as a reminder of the ongoing need for reform in the criminal justice system. The conversation surrounding prison mail scanning highlights the larger issue of mass incarceration and its negative impact on individuals, families, and society as a whole.
This is something that we've seen before. Even letters that we send to inmates are subject to screening, verification and other procedures that delay or even prevent our mail from getting to our clients.
There have been many reports where officers get hurt from touching mail that may have drugs on it. And while we certainly want to make sure that officers and prison personnel are safe and well, there has to be a way for incarcerated persons to get physical mail from their loved ones. It's a vital link between an incarcerated person and their loved ones.