Local Activists Draw Connections Between SB County Jail’s Letter Ban and Plans For Jail Expansion

“Right to Write SB” presents public forum co-hosted with other local civil rights organizations

Thursday night, Right To Write SB gave a presentation at tonight’s Documentary Film Screening & Community Forum at Casa de la Raza in Santa Barbara. Right to Write SB is a community group that has gathered to oppose the Santa Barbara County Jail’s letter ban, a recent policy which restricts incoming mail for inmates to postcards only. Co-hosted by PODER Santa Barbara, the Young Survivors Legacy Support Network, Youth CineMedia, and the Coalition for Sustainable Communities, the event took place March 27th at 6:30 PM. The films shown were emotional and deeply personal, and included one featuring Right to Write’s Marissa Garcia.

In solidarity with Santa Barbara County groups opposing the Santa Barbara Gang Injunction, the North County Jail Expansion, and the Santa Maria ICE Detention Facility, Right to Write detailed how the jail’s letter ban fits into a larger context of jail issues, enabling further over-incarceration, increasing recidivism, and eroding the rights of inmates and their families. “They are stripping services at their current jail at the same time that they are trying to build another,” says Right to Write organizer Anni Telfer. When that jail gets built, what will it be like? Will it be anything that we can accept for our community? I don’t think it will.”

In March of 2013, without community input, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff changed the policy on incoming mail to inmates at the County Jail, allowing inmates to only receive postcards. Immediately, Right to Write SB formed to overturn this policy, arguing that letters were the last affordable mode of communication between inmates and their friends and families. The group has argued that such a policy would unfairly punish the families of inmates, the working class and communities of color, and residents of north county, as well as worsen the jail’s rate of recidivism.

“Because of the letter ban, I can’t write my husband in jail to tell him how much I love him,” said Marissa Garcia. “This is just another attempt by Sheriff Bill Brown to cut costs on essential services and make his jail profitable at the expense of families like mine.”


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