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California county is sued for banning physical mail for prisoners

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Social Justice Legal Foundation, and Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute are suing to protect the rights of incarcerated people in a county jail to receive physical mail.

We obtained a copy of the complaint for you here.

In 2021, California’s San Mateo County banned incarcerated people in county jails from getting physical mail. Instead, friends and family have to send letters to Smart Communication, a Florida-based private firm that scans the letters and sends them to the jails where inmates can digitally access them through tablets and kiosks that are limited in number.

The rights organizations filed the complaint on behalf of five inmates, family members, and ABO Comix, a group of artists that interacts with inmates. The lawsuit argues that the mail policy violates the associational, expressive, and privacy rights of inmates, the friends, families, and supporters.

According to EFF, the policy is an invasion of privacy of the 850 inmates in the Redwood City jail and their families. The organization also notes that there are only a few tablets to be shared, making the policy a cruel way of restricting and limiting access to communication with the outside world. Letters are the only way inmates keep in touch with the outside world.

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