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Welfare Wednesday

“Counting the days until they set you free again. Writing this letter, hoping you're okay.” The Zombies, Care of Cell 44


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We understand the toll time away from your family while confined can take on your mental health. We all need the support of community and loved ones to encourage us through our most difficult times. Even in confinement you have First Amendment rights to receive mail.

Your rights

  • Prisoners generally have the right to receive books, magazines, and newspapers by mail, subject to the restrictions described below.

  • Prison authorities can generally decide to censor a publication for reasonable goals related to prison safety or security, but cannot reject publications because they disagree with their political viewpoint or for other arbitrary reasons.

  • Prisons cannot discriminate against religious publications by arbitrarily subjecting them to rules that do not apply to non-religious publications.

  • Prisons and jails may ban material that describes how to build weapons, instructs how to escape, or instructs how to break the law. They can ban magazines that contain nudity and pornography.

  • Often prisoners have the right only to receive softcover books and bound periodicals sent directly from a publisher, bookstore, or other commercial source, but sometimes courts have allowed prisoners to receive clippings and copies of articles from friends, family, or other noncommercial sources.

  • Prison officials cannot prevent your friends and relatives from buying you books and magazine subscriptions.

  • Both you and the sender have the right to be notified if your incoming publication is being censored or rejected. Prison officials must give enough of a reason for their censorship decision to allow you to challenge that decision.


What to do if you think your rights have been violated

  • When you learn that a publication has been rejected, you should always try to check your institution’s publication policy. If you believe the policy has been violated, you should file a grievance, and appeal it through all available levels of appeal. Note that there are usually strict time limits for filing a grievance, so you should do so as soon as possible.

Prisoners Rights published by ACLU

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