Last month, Maryland proposed banning all mail to inmates, apart from official legal correspondence and postcards.
The proposed emergency regulations were an attempt to stop prisoners from getting unpermitted access to Suboxone, a drug that’s used to treat opioid addiction, but can also cause its own set of problems. According to officials, some prisoners were getting the drug — which is sold in thin transparent strips — smuggled in via envelopes… hence the attempted ban on letters.
But, as the ACLU argued, banning prisoners from getting letters raises some very important civil liberties questions. “The proposal would rob families of one of the most profoundly significant forms of communication in our society,” the ACLU said. “Under the new scheme, an ailing mother could not send her son a letter for him to hold onto after she is gone. A teen could not write her mom to tell her the things she can’t say in a visit.”
Yesterday, the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services announced that it would back away from the proposed letter ban, and would instead convene a focus group to figure out a better way to stop drug smuggling, while also ensuring that prisoners’ rights are protected. What exactly that might look like remains to be seen.
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