Right to Write Prevails

After a year-and-a-half prohibition of letters in envelopes to inmates, County Jail ended its postcard-only policy last week. Activists with the “Right to Write” campaign have been vocal at rallies and protests urging the Sheriff’s department to get rid of what they called an unjust ban.

The decision comes months after a federal judge ruled the postcard-only policy is unconstitutional in Ventura County. A number of counties repealed the policy after class action lawsuits were filed against sheriff’s departments around the country.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s officials changed their policy on September 15. According to a statement from the department, “The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office regularly reviews the Custody Operations policies and the inmate management procedures to remain consistent with the most recent laws and court rulings. The inmate mail policy was recently reviewed and changes made to the policy. The only change was the postcard only portion of the policy was removed.”

When the policy was enacted in April 2013, Sheriff’s officials said it was in response to an increase in contraband discovered in mail in recent years, following a trend at other jails. There were 11 cases of contraband found in mail in 2012, five in 2011, and two in 2010, according to county tallies.

Activists called the recent decision a victory. Efforts to end the ban had included a letter-writing campaign to spread awareness about the protocol and speeches at events to call for greater civil rights. “We received so much help from PODER, Youth Cinemedia, Prison Legal News, and all the other people who got our message out,” said activist Anni Telfer in a statement.

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