“When the state is most corrupt, the laws are multiplied.” Tacitus
Effective 2017, the Virginia Department Of Corrections (VDOC) has instituted a new mail policy, which they falsely claim will stem the flow of contraband, primarily the controlled substances and fentanyl into Virginia prisons, when they well know over 80 percent of all contraband is smuggled into prisons by employees, as confirmed by multiple studies. If the VDOC really wanted to stop drugs and other contraband, such as cell phones and tobacco, from entering its prisons, then they would search all VDOC employees just as thoroughly upon entry as they do prisoners, families and friends when visiting.
Consequently, one can only conclude that stopping contraband is not the goal of this new policy (which is also being enforced by other states), merely the excuse for it, and a cynical person might easily think this new policy’s goal is to enable VDOC employees to corner the remaining 20 percent of the contraband market.
Its real goal, however, is to stop prisoners, their families, and friends from sending mail via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and force them into buying email “stamps” from Jpay, so Jpay and the VDOC can rake in profits, while enabling this mail to be closely monitored and recorded for future reference. Thus taking a big step towards the eventual shutdown of prison mail rooms, while effectively abrogating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by preventing newspapers, magazines and other publications from entering VDOC prisons.
As already established, sending and receiving email is not a right, it is a privilege, with prisoners on sanctions not allowed access to Jpay kiosks, when prisoners on sanctions, even in the hole, i.e., administrative segregation, send and receive USPS mail by right. Welcome to the Panoptic on, where all is seen, yet remains hidden, so billionaires can stuff their pockets at the publics expense.
Jpay, by the way, is a subsidiary of Securus, the second-largest prison phone company in the U.S., currently owned by the shadowy hedge fund Abry Partners, and in the process of being sold, if not sold already, to Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gore’s Platinum Equity. Meanwhile, Pitney Bowled, FexEx and UPS are writing in the wings for the USPS’s demise in order to snap up the profitable urban and suburban mail routes, leaving the unprofitable rural routes with minimal, if any, mail service.
The USPS having been rendered “unprofitable” through the Congressional accounting trick of forcing it to fund pensions years in advance, at behest of Pitney Bowled et all., at the expense of its infrastructure. The final blow will likely come from Donald Trump, whose policy is to sacrifice the public’s interest and assets on the altar of private capital.
A close read of the VDOC’s new mail policy directive and operating procedure, signed by David Robinson, reveals they have less to do with stopping drugs and way more to do with ending prisoners communication via USPS mail, while going a long way in proving George Orwell’s point that “the greatest enemy of clear language is insincerity.”
Tellingly, the section of the new policy reveals a blatant lie “Envelops which cannot be effectively searched may provide a means of introducing controlled substances, for example suboxone or fentanyl, or other contraband which poses a threat to the security, good order, or disciine of the facility [emphasis supplied].”
A lie because the VDOC well knows plain envelopes can be easily and effectively searched using a “Light Pad” or detection light which it has been doing for years. Formerly, they claimed that only “padded corrugated” envelopes could not be effectively searched.
Nevertheless, according to the new mail policy and procedure, all incoming envelopes, letters and photos will be thrown in the trash, (supposedly but unverifiably shredded), which possibly leaves anyone, including other prisoners, access to prisoners families and friends addresses. They will then be replaced with a photocopy of the envelop, letter, and photo. Might I mention that this new policy limits incoming mail to only three pages including the one page necessary to photocopy the envelope, which circumvents the allowed postal weight of a forever stamp (capitalism).
An error typical of the VDOC, which has long taken the position that is not required to follow its own rules or the law for that matter.
Similar to the Indiana (Also Michigan) Department of Corrections new mail policy put in place April 1, 2017, the VDOC new mail policy requires all personal correspondence including greeting cards, to be Xeroxed which effectively prevent distortions of orginal color in photos as well as any drawings or cards made by prisoners children or family.
I, for one, really looked forward to the 2 dimensional experience of spending time with my loved ones via colored photos, drawings etc.
None of the foregoing, including the new mail policy itself, meets the test of rationally relating to a serious penological concern set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78, 79 (1987). Certainly, the VDOC’s concerns regarding incoming prisoner mail can be addressed using far less dangerous and destructive methods, such as the use of a light pad and a physical search, as before, in order to avoid this wholesale trampling of prisoners, their families, friends and other mail senders constitutional rights. Especially, those of freedom of speech, and press, and to send and receive USPS mail, as guranteeded by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Spreading from Virginia’s prisons to Michigan’s and Indiana’s, like some viral disease, it is only a matter of time before this policy of monetizing and restricting prisoners mail at the expense of their families and friends, as well as various publishers and the USPS, for the financial benefit of hedge fund billionaires, other corporate bottom-feeders and prison administrators, infects the whole country from coast to coast.
That is why we are issuing a call to our families and friends, especially those in the prison abolition movement, to organize actions against illegal and outrageously repressive new mail policy. We also urge everyone to phone or email VDOC Director Harold Clarke, who is responsible for this travesty, and state your objections.
Finally, we request any concerned attorneys to contact us at our address below in order to help us litigate against this egregious infringement upon all our First Amendment rights.
Don’t monetize prisons, abolish them!
Contact Me at:
Tommie Forster #1403251
Nottoway Correctional Center
P.O. Box 488
Burkeville, VA 23922
Or Mail at: Jpay.com
Categories: Tommie Forster