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Flagler Sheriff Bans Inmates From Writing Or Receiving Personal Mail Other Than Postcards

| January 6, 2011

Not anymore: that sort of letter, written from a Brevard County jail, will not be allowed in or out of the Flagler jail. (© Marcella Marie)

Beginning Jan. 15, the Flagler County Sheriff is banning all incoming or outgoing personal letters of any size to or from inmates at the county jail. Only metered postcards no smaller or larger than index cards will be allowed as means of written communication. No picture postcards will be allowed either way, so the ban will also mean that family or friends’ personal photographs can no longer be sent in by mail. The policy doesn’t apply to newspapers, magazines, religious or legal materials, though those materials must also comply with a set of restrictions.

Flagler is adopting a policy already enacted in a handful of counties in the last year, including Pasco, Manatee, Lee, Alachua and Santa Rosa. But the draconian policy, while gaining favor in Florida, remains extremely rare in the country. The ACLU of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute filed a class-action lawsuit against the Santa Rosa County Sheriff in September, challenging the constitutionality of the ban there. Two weeks ago, a federal judge suspended a similar policy in El Paso County, Colo., after the ACLU filed suit. The sheriff there then restored inmates’ rights to unlimited written correspondence.

Many of the of the inmates in jail have not been adjudicated and are presumed (or supposed to be presumed) innocent. Yet Flagler’s and other Florida counties’ policies are considerably more restrictive than those of the Florida Department of Corrections or the Federal Bureau of Prisons, both of which allow written mail of unlimited pages in envelopes, and most of whose inmates have been found guilty and are serving sentences for crimes far more violent or serious than the overwhelming majority of inmates in county jails, including those serving a sentence. The federal policy explicitly “encourages inmates to write to family, friends, and other community contacts to maintain these ties during incarceration,” and allows text-only email.  Had a policy like Flagler’s been in place in local jails in Alabama in 1963, Martin Luther King would not have been allowed to mail his celebrated and influential Letter from Birmingham Jail, written in a single day in April that year from his jail cell, as a justification of civil disobedience against arbitrary and unjust laws. Three periodicals published the letter soon after it was mailed.

Details as to why the Flagler County jail was imposing the new policy were scant on Thursday. The Sheriff’s Office announced the policy in a news release. “The change will free up staff time that otherwise would be used to screen the incoming and outgoing mail,” jail Director Becky Quintieri was quoted as saying in the release. “It also makes the mail more secure.”

Postcards must be no smaller than 3 ½ by 5 ½ inches and no larger than 4 ¼ by 6 inches (the two standard sizes of index cards). Stamped cards will be rejected. Incoming postcards must be clearly addressed with the inmate’s name and booking number and may only be delivered by the U.S. Post Office or a commercially licensed mail carrier (a restriction similar to those that apply in state and federal prisons). There is no limit on the number of postcards inmates may send or receive, though beyond the two weekly pre-paid postcards provided to inmates who can’t afford them, inmates must buy their own.

Speaking late Thursday on the origin of the new policy, Sheriff’s Spokeswoman Debbie Johnson said there had been some cases of contraband being brought in through the mail, though the move was just as much to save on staff time, she said. “They’re still going to have to read the postcards and they’re still going to have to handle the mail and deliver it, but for security they’ve chosen to go with the postcards,” Johnson said. She couldn’t yet provide numbers regarding the volume of mail in question, or the amount of staff time that was taken up sorting through mail, and how much of that time would be saved under the new policy. Unlike in Santa Rosa, a jail with a capacity of 500, the Flagler jail is relatively small. It has a capacity of 132. On Thursday, it had 158 inmates.

The ban on stamps has to do with contraband, too: it can be smuggled in using licked stamps, though Johnson said the jail would not provide details. Inmates at the jail have no access to the Internet, to email, or to portable phones or communication devices. They may only use payphones through a system called Pay-Tel, which charges a flat fee of $2.25 for the first 15 minutes for local calls. Out-of-county calls in the United States cost 50 cents a minute, not including operator charges of between $1.85 (in-state) and $2.85 (out of state) per call. In other words, phone calls are expensive regardless.

Writing an unlimited number of postcards isn’t a financial solution: according to the Santa Rosa lawsuit, an inmate would need to write 18 postcards, at 28 cents each, to write the equivalent of a two-page letter, costing a total of $5.04 to transmit the same amount of information.

Last year an inmate sued the Manatee County sheriff over a similar policy, but the lawsuit was thrown out before it got a hearing. “The constitutional issues have never been fully litigated in federal court in Florida,” Benjamin Stevenson, a Pensacola-based staff attorney with the ACLU, said Thursday evening. Stevenson is litigating the Santa Rosa case.

“Inmates and their friends and families ought to be able to receive and send letters. That’s the simple answer,” Stevenson said. “These policies that needlessly restrict inmates, they not only punish the inmates, many of whom have not been convicted, but also their friends and family.” When visiting hours are limited, phone calls are expensive and email not allowed, written mail is “often the only practical way for inmates to maintain contact.” Beyond practicality, there’s also privacy: while jail staff has the right to inspect mail, an inmate’s or correspondents’ words should not have to be seen by everyone else along the way, especially when medical, financial and personal family matters are at stake. It’s also common that an inmate would want to write, say, to a spouse without having the inmate’s child see the correspondence. That privacy is no longer possible.

Stevenson doesn’t buy the argument that restricting mail to postcards saves money or time, since the mail would still have to be inspected (and inspectors may have to strain longer to decipher the inevitably smaller print in restrictive postcards, for example). It is doubtful, however, that local county jail have either conducted empirical analyses of time spent (or saved) through various implementation of mail policies while translating that time into dollar figures. It costs about $50 a day to incarcerate an inmate, Stevenson said, “and we’re arguing over a dime here, or a nickel, or penny? The same argument can be made over food.”

The Santa Rosa suit (see the full text) was filed on First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds. It charges that by limiting how much they can express themselves, the policy violates inmates’ right to free speech. The policy, the lawsuit charges, “prevents family and friends of inmates from receiving these fully developed and complete messages from jail inmates. In addition, the postcards expose the content of the inmates’ communications to anyone who handles, processes, or views in route the postcards, both within the jail and after the postcards leave the facility.” The new policy, the suit continues, forces “inmates to either abandon including sensitive information in their non-privileged correspondence or risk divulging confidential, sensitive information to unknown third-parties who can easily intercept these messages on postcards. Including sensitive financial information on a postcard increases the chance that the jail inmate may become a victim of identity thief or fraud. The Postcard-Only Mail Policy either chills jail inmates from writing about sensitive matters entirely, or it requires them to expose their communications to a host of strangers or unintended recipients—such as postal employees, an office secretary or a child who retrieves from the mailbox a postcard that discusses sensitive details intended only for the parent’s eyes.”

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59 Responses for “Flagler Sheriff Bans Inmates From Writing Or Receiving Personal Mail Other Than Postcards”

  1. PC Dave says:

    I can’t tell you how great an idea this is! We should completely isolate these vermin from the rest of us law abiding citizens. Who wants to hear from them anyway? Their families and friends are no doubt tired of hearing them whine about being innocent and they probably don’t really want to help them mount a defense either. They will now doubt welcome not hearing from them. And while were at it, why don’t we execute a few of them. No one will ever know. So what if a few of them might be innocent of the charges they are in for. Anyone who is in the county jail surely has committed many crimes for which they haven’t been caught. What a great deterrent this would be for anyone ever contemplating committing a crime, drinking and driving, getting drunk and disorderly, shoplifting, ignoring parking tickets, or smoking a joint. Right on, sheriff. You know how I’m going to vote the next time you are running.

  2. ItsMe says:

    Martin Luther King…way to turn this into a race issue. This is not 1963 and where is the ACLU for the true victim who had some liberty removed from them via theft or burglary? Where is the ACLU for those who have been truly violated?

  3. NortonSmitty says:

    Re-read the part about it being a county jail where most have not been found guilty of anything. This is beyond the norm for any civilized country. Even Iran allowed letters from the bogus spies they arrested to be sent to the US. Is there no capacity for shame in you right-wing studs that we are sinking to a standard of decency lower than the Ayatollahs? I fear for my country.

  4. JerryF says:

    “Anyone who is in the county jail surely has committed many crimes for which they haven’t been caught.” Ladies and gentlemen we have a winner for the most retarded statement of the week contest! Congrats PC Dave and remember you are not eligible to win again for six weeks.

  5. The Piranha says:

    My compliments to Sheriff Fleming for his continued efforts to reduce crime and take a tough stance against those that do. Not only will this allow more time for the deputies working there to use time more efficiently but I’m sure it will reduce criminal activity amongst the “detained” held within. It is not taking away from their “normal” rights to receive mail, just not mail that has a better chance to contain contraband, weapons or hidden messages. MLK? Though I don’t believe he has much to do with letter to postcard restriction, I believe he would have found a way to write on an index size card just fine.

  6. some guy says:

    someone needs to re-re-read the part about “most” in the county jail. It says in two spots that MANY not most in jail have yet to have their day in court. As far as not giving all the mail options they had no big deal to me as they are in JAIL.

  7. ItsMe says:

    I fear for my country too Norton Smitty as we continue to decriminalize the criminal, minimize the crime and make villains out of law enforcement. I wonder if you would feel the same if you were a victim of one of those inmates. I don’t see anyone sticking up or feeling sorry for victims of crime.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      One thing that really bugs the hell out of me is when people like ItsMe use public forums to make blitheringly uninformed comments which, when put in the context of other more reasoned and factual comments, give them the sheen of respectability. Let’s not leave that one unanswered, especially since, from all appearances and past comments, ItsMe appears to be an anonymous stand-in for the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office (way to go there with the courage of your convictions, hiding behind a pseudonym: it most certainly is not you, captain courageous), which makes the ignorance that much more worrisome. Sheriff Fleming, you might want to have your men and women brush up on their knowledge of current affairs.

      To wit (as they love to say in police reports): “… we continue to decriminalize the criminal, minimize the crime and make villains out of law enforcement,” says ItsWhoever. This in a country where at last count (2009), we had 7.2 million people in prisons, jails, on parole or probation, and 2.3 million people in prisons or jails–more than China’s prison and jail population, even though China is a totalitarian police state and has more than four times the population of the United States, more than Russia’s prison and jail population, even though Russia is history’s champion of mass-market incarceration. Decriminalize? Minimize? With numbers like these? You’re confusing us with Denmark. And let’s not get started with medieval three-strikes-you’re-out laws, minimum mandatory sentences, the criminalization and torture of children, and so on.

      Make villains out of law enforcement? You must be stuck in that brief period in American history, between 1965 and 1975, thanks be to Earl Warren and his all-too-brief legacy, when courts actually held cops accountable for what they did. That was an aberration. We’re now back to 1950s-Alabama-style attitudes that law enforcement can do no wrong, glamorizing cops and shields, no questions asked. The only place a suspect–any suspect–is considered innocent until proven guilty anymore is in those brief moments the suspect gets in a courtroom, where the pretenses of law are occasionally upheld.

      And if you don’t see anyone sticking up or feeling sorry for the victims of crime, then you’re simply advertising your illiteracy. Again, not reassuring signs for a sheriff’s office plant. Half those prime-time “news” magazine shows and the near-totality of daytime chat shows are devoted to victimology sessions of one type or another, victims of crime included. So do me a favor before you use my site to spread your misinformation: use verifiable facts instead of repeating rote and falsified cliches, use those little techniques they taught you in middle school to back up what you say , and best of all, have the guts to use your name instead of shielding yourself, not for the first time, behind that craven anonymity of yours (which speaks loudly of your character). You’d earn a whole lot of respect no matter how much we may disagree.

  8. ItsMe says:

    Norton Smitty,

    Perhaps you’d rather Irans punishment for crime over ours as well?

    -Death penalty through; stoning, hanging (gallows),
    – blinding
    – Balding
    – crucifying

    Seems your knowledge of what you post here is zip…and because I do not agree you call me a right wing stud with low standards? You do not know me so that speaks loudly of your character and closed mindedness.

  9. ItsMe says:

    Seems I may have struck a nerve. A sheriff’s office plant LOL. a decoy maybe? I’ll have to come up with a much cooler username now. Don’t be paranoid…I speak my own mind here and have no other agenda. I have even complimented this site once or twice.
    Surely though, if I was wrong I would have just been ignored or atleast not have garnered such a lengthy angry reply. Why respond to my “illiteracy” at all? Such a belittling reply labeling me for posting my thought on a subject. This I take as an attempt to chase nonlike thinkers away from this site. That speaks loudly of the character of a site where only like minds are allowed to gather and discuss topics. Sort of a private club that the public can see but only a select faction should partake. Quite the contrary to the belief from advertising that all are welcome.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Naturally, you don’t address the points I raised ItsMe, and continue hiding behind your fake name and self-pitying Muzak. I’m responding to your illiteracy only in so far that I don’t like this site to be misused by the likes of you to disseminate false information. Pull that sort of stunt again and your comment won’t go live, or will be edited, because I don’t have time to waste cleaning up anonymous commenters’ falsehoods. Read the comment policy.

  10. K says:

    We need to decriminalize marijuana in order to ease the burden on our local and state jails. Imagine the money we’d save!

  11. NortonSmitty says:

    Can somebody explain to me how it can be that America today has far more people incarcerated per capita than ANY society in the history of mankind. More than the Soviet Union under Stalin, South Africa under Apartheid or Germany under Hitler! More than Iran today. Twice as many as communist China today

    And yet it is the common belief not only by the wingnut stud above but almost everyone, that we are soft on crime? Explain it to me please! You can get five years for punching a loudmouth in the nose for crissakes! Ten for an ounce or two of weed. Remember when Tyra Banks was getting Ten years for throwing a cell phone at her maid? Of course she never did a day, she’s rich.. But did anybody ask “Hey wait a minute. Ten years for throwing a cell phone at your maid?”

    All you hear about is the revolving door Willie Horton bullshit and how there is this horrible crime wave going on. Well guess what? The crime rate is LOWER THAN EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THIS COUNTRY! Look it up. Even with the creeping felonization of minor infractions and the fairly recent. invention of new “crimes” like DUI and arguing with your wife, there is less crime today PER CAPITA than in Ozzie and Harriets’ days by far.

    But we have to be scared, so you never hear it in the so-called liberal media. Want an example? Last summer, every newspaper and every local TV news led off for days with a somber newscaster sadly staring into the lens and stating in apocalyptic tones that the Orlando Metropolitan Area had set a new murder record. Fifty-four people tragically and senselessly were killed in our fair city, eclipsing the record of fifty-two that had been set in 1972. How terrifying.

    But nobody had the honesty to explain that in 1972, Orlando had a population of under 300,000 people. Today, I don’t know, maybe 1.5, maybe 2 MILLION PEOPLE! In other words, there were at least FIVE TIMES MORE MURDERS PER CAPITA FORTY YEARS AGO THAN IN THESE DANGEROUS END TIMES.
    To say otherwise might bring into question why we have many times more police and jail cells per person than in the Good Old days. And why our property taxes are so high.

    Something to think about for those of you who still go in for that kind of thing. For you Republicans, I hear Sarah, Queen of the Idiots is shooting a caribou on TV tonight! I can’t wait!

    • Abby says:

      Why are you making this about politics? I am a conservative gal and I disagree with the limits to correspondence by people in jail for Whatever reason! It is wrong period. Secondly Norton, DUI is a major crime, let’s see how you feel when a drunk driver changes your life or that of a family member. Shame on you for belittling the risk they pose to society and innocent people. No big deal when you can’t walk or lost a loved one. You’ll sound much more convincing and relative if you stick to the point at hand….is it reasonable to sever communication between people waiting to be tried for a crime they may or may NOT have committed with those they wish to? How does it hurt society? How does it help?

  12. ItsMe says:

    What exactly is the likes of me and what falsehoods I posted? Of course I won’t address the points you raised because I do not have the energy to argue nonsense like this:

    ” We’re now back to 1950s-Alabama-style attitudes that law enforcement can do no wrong, glamorizing cops and shields, no questions asked”

    You’re spewing the very stuff you’re accusing me of. And on top of that you resort to calling me names and belittling me all for nothing. And you want my real name? LOL. Believe me you don’t because then I would have to really get all smart and everything and you’d have to eat that “illiterate” remark. We’d go on and on and on. I do not have that kind of time.

    Also, Norton Smitty, do you know what per capita means? Do you understand how percentages work? LOL Good night.

  13. elaygee says:

    Regardless, why do police and public officials continue to enact policies that are clearly unconstitutional and will, in the end, result in lawsuits that will cost taxpayers money (as it should for allowing such lousy management by their officials)

    The no letter policy protects no one and punishes the innocent along with the guilty. That is unAmerican.

  14. Jim says:

    “To wit (as they love to say in police reports): “… we continue to decriminalize the criminal, minimize the crime and make villains out of law enforcement,” says ItsWhoever. This in a country where at last count (2009), we had 7.2 million people in prisons, jails, on parole or probation, and 2.3 million people in prisons or jails–more than China’s prison and jail population, even though China is a totalitarian police state and has more than four times the population of the United States,”

    I wonder how many people China executes long before the Judicial system here does? And how many of the US Prisoners, would become Deaths under China’s totalitarian system? Likely is a significant amount although admittedly I am guessing. There wasn’t a Chinse yearbook at the DONUT SHOP this morning?

    “more than Russia’s prison and jail population, even though Russia is history’s champion of mass-market incarceration. Decriminalize? Minimize? With numbers like these? You’re confusing us with Denmark. And let’s not get started with medieval three-strikes-you’re-out laws, minimum mandatory sentences, the criminalization and torture of children, and so on.”

    And from there you continue on that todays POLICE Officers operate more like 1950’s Alabama…You are of course entitled to your opinion just as I am, however it is much different today than it was in 1950 anywhere let alone Alabama as it’s your favorite…… I wonder why? Do you equate police officers, with stupidty, low intelligience, etc. etc.???? Are you in fact twisting and calling them the infamous “N” word by using your “Alabama” synonym?

    I think we should both agree that there is a left and right slant to how anyone can look at anything. I am in fact disappointed that you decided a press release designed to inform the public about a new procedure put into effect at the jail, turns into an editorial instead. We all of course have our individual writing styles and ways to get the message accross.

    It is fine to disagree with a policy that is wrong in your opinion, however what are your doing to change it? Would you consider that in fact letters mailed into prisons can in fact be used for a number of covert events, like smuggling contraband, or continuing a criminal enterprize while in fact the “mastermind” is behind bars. Could letters be used for intimidation of victims and or witness’s?

    I don’t know how much time, labor wise, can in fact be saved by correctional staff who must read all of these written communications. I would also guess that it is some, and may even be enough to reduce the correctional staff by 1 or 2?

    Would electronic communications be a better alternative than the current pen & paper method? Probably, and while we are at it, why not make “Visitation” an electronic one also to provide safety and reduce the chance of contraband being introduced into the facilities.

    Lets not forget while we are it, that even though there may not have been a trial yet, while someone
    is in custody, there has been a hearing, where a JUDGE has determined that there is enough “Probable Cause” to believe a crime has in fact been commited, and that the accused should proceed to trial.

    Fanning the flames doesn’t usually change much…Having an open mind, and taking the initiave to listen and negotiate usually does result in changes that makes things better.

  15. ItsMe says:


    It is not a “no letter policy”. According to the article there will be correspondence but with post cards instead. I also recall on the news (as i’m sure most will too) some high profile cases and the many phone calls that inmates make and we hear the recordinge of those calls. Look at the Haylee Cummings case. How many recorded phone call conversations did we all hear? Same with the Casey Anthony case in Orlando. Inmates have plenty of correspondence. There’s also visitation.
    It’s jail.

  16. Dorothea says:

    The mail correspondence by postcard only, as usual, adversely affects the poor, not those inmates who can afford to post bail or those who have family and friends that can afford to receive collect calls. As for probable cause detention hearings, regardless, the inmates have not been found guilty and are still presumed innocent.

    What do the Casey Anthony and Haylee Cummings cases, cases not in Flagler County, have to do with anything? Yes, Anthony and Cummings were allowed to communicate to others by mail and phone, but if I recall correctly, these communications were used as evidence against them. Jailed individuals have no right to privacy, but they do have the right to be treated humanely.

  17. NortonSmitty says:

    So a man or woman awaiting trial, which can take up to a year, is waiting in jail virtually all of the time because they can’t afford to pay bail. Which means they are poor. The overwhelming majority in our Criminal Justice Industry are. Now while he is in jail, we already cut a deal with AT&T to milk him for $3.50 a phone call, $2.00 for a little bag of chips, we towed his piece of shit car away for $500, and visitation is over a telephone through a plate of glass for maybe half-hour a week.

    The only bargain he has is he can spend his time writing his family and friends about what he’s gonna do different next time and communicate using the US mail for a $0.33 cent stamp and getting letters from his wife in return. It keeps him sane, which is good, because he’s gonna’ get out eventually and rejoin us on the street. And you fuckers want to take that away because it’s cutting into your doughnut eating time?

    All of the above mentioned lucre is largely unaccounted for and somehow always seems to enrich the Law-enforcement leaders and politicians somehow. Hopefully we’ll get a glimpse of how it works if the state AG decides that the folks in Bunnell took so big a bite out of this easy-money corruption pie that it even embarrassed Tallahassee with this recent tow-truck criminal enterprise.. Not shamed in that they were doing it, it , that’s business as usual. It embarrassed them they were so brazen doing it they got caught, so they may actually be brought to trial, but I’ not holding my breath. If they are. believe me they will not have to worry one day about the cost of a phone call. They stole so much they can afford good lawyers to provide what little defense they need to walk when your part of the Criminal Justice System.

    Throughout history, men such as King, Ghandi, Thoreau and Mandela have been put in jail with the poor petty criminals because of the belief that, as King said in the letter that was reduced to race baiting in this very post, “there are two types of Laws, Just and Unjust”. He himself went to to jail to change the system, because it wasn’t right what The Law was dong to ‘him and his people, and he did. In great part due to this Letter from the Birmingham Jail that is still read an respected all over the world fifty years later. It changed history. If you’d like to read it, and you should, here it is: I gotta warn you, it’s a little long, but worth it.

    In other words, IT CAN’T BE CONDENSED TO FIT ON A THREE BY FIVE INCH FUCKING POSTCARD!!! And somewhere today, maybe someone in jail may be writing one that will have the same effect that one did.

    Because in the USA in 2010, we’s all Negro’s now.

  18. NortonSmitty – I don’t know you, but I am so glad there are still people like you somewhere in this neck of the woods.
    As for the letter – admittedly, it would have been a LOT shorter had it not been penned in jail, and we’d have been so much poorer for it.
    Pierre – thanks for that “positive” mention of my old home… Who would have thunk

  19. ItsMe says:

    Dorothea, perhaps you do not know that Ronald Cummings was held here in Flagler County for s few weeks.

  20. ItsMe says:

    For those of you who believe without question how history was written remember Columbus discovered America.

  21. ItsMe says:

    One of Vonneguts rules for writing was to use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. Smitty is no Vonnegut.

  22. Pierre – :-) Makes sense.
    ItsMe – I found no fault with Norton’s per capita example; its use certainly matches my definition, but then again, I might be suffering from English as a second language syndrome… I agree with you on the no letters in jail thing. I think we should take it further and feed those horrible people awaiting trial or otherwise a diet of roach infested gruel and moldy bread. That’ll teach ’em…

    Now, should you ever find yourself in one of those facilities, I wonder if your tune will change any, and you’d be crying for a pen and paper, to jot down your thoughts on Vonnegut, naturally.

  23. Captain Courageous formerly ItsMe says:

    I love the new name Pierre Thanks :)

    NortonSmitty says:
    January 8, 2011 at 11:08 am
    So a man or woman awaiting trial, which can take up to a year, is waiting in jail virtually all of the time because they can’t afford to pay bail. Which means they are poor. The overwhelming majority in our Criminal Justice Industry are. Now while he is in jail, we already cut a deal with AT&T to milk him for $3.50 a phone call, $2.00 for a little bag of chips, we towed his piece of shit car away for $500, and visitation is over a telephone through a plate of glass for maybe half-hour a week.

    Yep all that and it’s still not a deterrent…go figure.

    Thank you Inna. I do have a clear understanding that if I were to go to jail certain things would not be afforded me. It is not Summer camp where kids are writing home about their daily adventures.

    Here’s a great idea. Maybe the state can enact a “Take Home A Jail Inmate Day” where one day per year residents like yourselves are given an opportunity to have an inmate spend the day in your home. Obviously you’d have to be screened and pass a thorough background investigation.
    The catch would be that you do not get to pick the inmate or know what crime they are accused of. It shouldn’t matter anyway because after all they are innocent until proven otherwise right? You would be responsible for them for 24 hours and no matter what you can not call the police prior to the end of the 24 hours. Residents with expensive jewelry, high end electronics, major credit cards and prescription drugs would be greatly encouraged to participate.

  24. Contrast says:

    What many of you are missing is that until adjudged guilty by a judge or jury, those awaiting trial in jail are still to be considered innocent under the United States Constitution and are entitled to such rights as bestowed therein.

  25. Inmate's Wife says:

    What all of you are talking about in such abstract terms is very REAL to me. My husband is currently sitting in a county jail (not Flagler) awaiting transfer to state custody to serve a several year long sentence for a first offense DUI that occurred as a result of a severe mental health episode coupled with a medical incident at the wheel. He had no prior record of any kind. I can tell you Pierre why we have the highest per-capita rate of imprisonment on the planet. It’s because we criminalize and imprison people who should be in mental health facilities, like my husband.

    Many of you are talking about these people sitting in jails in throwaway terms. But they will get out, most of them – how do you expect them to maintain family relationships and be able to constructively rejoin society (and deal with the problems that put them inside in the first place) without the support that comes to them in form of letters? You cut them off from anything that is good in their life and then expect them to be able to make something positive of themselves when their time is up…you are setting them up for failure. And don’t tell me the phone is a substitute. I can afford to have my husband call me everyday. His calls are limited to 15 minutes per day – when he gets one at all. Even on days that he is allowed phone access to make a call, half the time the phone system doesn’t work and we can’t hear each other. Redialing isn’t allowed, so there goes our chance at communication for THAT day. In the past 5 days I have spoken to my husband for a total of about 35 minutes. 2 out of our last 3 call attempts have failed due to the phone system.

    It’s easy to talk in grand terms about this topic when it doesn’t affect you. But think about how you would maintain YOUR marriage and family relationships on an average of about 45 minutes of phone time per week and postcards 5 days per week, while simultaneously undergoing the most stressful experience of your life. Ask yourself how that would effect your mental health. Then ask yourself what is going to happen to all of those people who you are cutting off from their support structure when their relationships fall apart and they come back into the community with nothing to draw on emotionally.

    It’s unconstitutional (for multiple reasons)…but more than that…it’s incredibly short sighted.

  26. Elana Lee says:

    Norton Smitty, thank you for posting that link. (And your math is just fine, btw). There are indeed Martin Luther Kings in our detention centers, county jails, and prisons. We’ve locked up a whole lot of potential talent, and potentially good people. I’m not saying there are not some individuals for whom there is no other recourse other than incarceration, but it seems like that has become our Nation’s way to “create” jobs: “Lock ’em up!” Prisons mean jobs. That’s why so many of the American population is locked up. All our jobs have gone to China.

    The FCSO took away “letters” because they can. This measure will not prevent any “secret” communication. The serious offenders inside already know their incoming and outgoing mail is read (and in some places, photocopied and kept in their files). Therefore, they all write in codes. Anyone can read it and not have a clue what they’re talking about. They can even take Bibles and newspapers away from them, but no one can take away what is inside their heads: The alphabet, and numbers.

    Further, “contraband” (by this I’m sure those above are referring to drugs/cigarettes), that does not come in the mail, in envelopes, or hidden underneath the licked stamps! lol Nor from visitors who only talk through a phone, through plexiglass. Yet inside the jail, the detainees have access to pretty much any drugs and cigarettes they want, as well as a way to light their cigarettes. And you know full well how said contraband gets in. That’s no secret, not in this county, not in our neighboring counties, not in our state, or nation.

    One suggestion I would make. While the Flagler detainees are working with the ACLU on this letter issue, they need to ask about the books. I was shocked when I was told by – former head of the jail, and then he had me speak to David OBrien. I wanted to purchase books, brand new ones, not any that had any writing, shipped to the jail straight from the manufacturer, nothing violent, bloody, no crime novels, but things like self-help, anger management, GED preparation, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Meditation, books that dealt with addiciton and how to access resources once they left, building self-esteen, making positive choices, parenting for fathers. And I had a group of ladies who were all going to buy books and have them sent to the Flagler County Jail, because my son (who was in there at the time as you know) told me that had practically no books, just a couple of worn romance paperbacks that got passed around and around. And we were told “NO” they cannot have books. No reason given. Actually, I believe he said they don’t have room, not until they get the new, big jail built. We weren’t asking the county for a penny – we wanted to donate good, positive, helpful books, but were told “NO”. Does freedom of speech include freedom to access other’s speech through reading it? I’ll have to ask….

  27. Charlotte says:

    The ban is absurd. What about human rights? No wonder many people who come out of jail/prison commit crime again. It seems to me that people here believe that to stop crime, prisoners need to experience hell. This is not a long term solution. I believe the opposite. making life really difficult for people who already have problems will make them sicker. We can just look at statistics. These people need help to get better. In most European countries people get help inside prison and when they come out they can start a new life without re – offending. The once a “criminal, always a criminal” attitude is sad and ignorant. The bigger picture is lost. Violence and crimes are directly correlated with poverty and the way the system here is set up. It starts already when a baby is born and the mother cannot stay home with her baby for more then a few weeks/maybe months if lucky. What happens to the child ( long term) when raised by many different providers at a daycare?? what about attachments, trust and all that’s formed during the first part of life? In Sweden & Norway (and other countries in Europe) it’s a right to stay home with your child full-time for 15 months with 90 % of your pay. This is a good foundation. The U.S has a LONG way to go before the crime problem can be solved.


  28. NortonSmitty says:

    OK, I was fishing for a few days, I get back and see I’ve been both ripped and praised in these pages. I’m just amazed people consider my posts worth thinking about, let alone expending the effort to actually comment on. To all of those wise and astute intellectuals who enjoyed my point of view, may you forever hold such high standards. For the rest of you reactionary philistines, I’ll respond after I gut and clean all of these Wahoo. It will put me in the mood, and I have my priorities, but trust me I will get back to you ASAP.

    P.S. Cap’n Courageous? WTF! I leave for three days and the world goes to shit!

  29. J.J. Graham says:

    Could we please get a soundtrack to go with these commentaries? I was thinking maybe Bob Dylan’s Hurricane…holy cow…! The no books thing really bothers me. Maybe we should hold their mail and make them submit a book report a week to obtain it. Instead of charging them for phone calls …”hey gimme another book report!” The ones who enjoy reading will love it, and the ones who don’t will learn. Aw hell just give them their damn mail for Christ sake.

  30. Captain Courageous says:

    I know Smitty, but it’s the name Pierre gave me and well….I kind of like it LOL!

  31. The Piranha says:

    Folks, we’re talking about an unstamped postcard as opposed to a sealed letter and stamp that has a much greater chance of containing weapons, drugs or contraband. If having three meals a day, at least two phone calls a day, visitors once a week and receiving or sending mail on a postcard is deemed unconstitutional, then I must be living in a country where it pays to do nothing so you can receive more than those who work for a living. Hopefully that will “change” soon too.

  32. Captain Courageous says:

    What Piranha said!

  33. Inmate's Wife says:

    Piranha you obviously know NOTHING about being in jail.

    Do you actually think that inmates are handed sealed mail? No, it is opened, inspected, SCANNED and a copy saved, and then handed to the inmates – but only if it meets extremely strict guidelines that mean there is absolutely no way that it can contain absolutely anything that threatens jail security, either in written or physical content.

    Contraband does NOT come in through the mail. This isn’t about stopping the flow of contraband. It’s about cutting costs so they don’t have to pay people to do all the checking and scanning they are doing now.

    And you wouldn’t be envying the 3 meals a day if you actually had to eat them. Or the 2 phone calls a day (which no one actually ever gets 2, by the way – you’re lucky to get one), on crappy phone lines with no privacy in a public area and knowing you are being recorded – and you are paying $10 for 15 minutes.

    Visitors once a week? Yeah, in local jails around here that usually means through glass or on a video screen. And no kids under 12 are allowed at Flagler – so tough luck if you have a young one. And you have to do it on the jail’s schedule so tough luck if you, oh, have an actual job or something.

    It’s HARD. The only people who think it isn’t are the people who haven’t done it. It’s a great political soundbite but it’s not reality. Walk 24 hours in my husband’s shoes and you would stop whining about how cushy he has it. You’d be on your knees begging for your life back.

  34. The Piranha says:

    That’s why they call it JAIL… It’s not called Club Paradise until the suspected perpetrator is determined to be innocent, convicted, reaches a plea agreement or bonds out for a reason. Your husband is in jail and through your own admission, is receiving all the necessities a human being is constitutionally entitled. The Flagler County Jail is already over maximum capacity and “suspects” being released or bond reduced at an alarming rate.
    To answer your question, No, I don’t believe inmates are handed sealed mail. I am encouraged though by the amount of time it will save deputies who had to sort through this mail though as it will be much quicker to scan a postcard without having to look in an envelope for contraband or remove a stamp to see if there is something underneath. Contraband does not come into the jail by mail? Dear lady, there have been orchestrated killings made through inmate mail on the street and in other prisons.
    I don’t envy nor want the three meals a day supplied by JAIL. That’s why I don’t commit or become suspected of committing crimes. I call people, eat and shower when I want, see who I want when I want. That’s part of the freedom that our deputies and legal system provide. Is it not a perfect world or situation by no means, but if the solution is to let people commit crime without penalty, none of us would exist. The only true victims here (from what it sounds) are the children. I certainly don’t believe it is the inmate who receives a postcard in lieu of letter in an envelope.
    What this county needs is a larger jail so more suspects and prisoners have a place to stay instead of being allowed out on bond reduction hearings and overcrowding. Make the inmates and suspects pay for the services and food they receive if they are in fact found guilty of the charges they committed. In reality, I believe the suspects and inmates in our jails have it pretty easy.

  35. tedesco says:


    COLUMBUS, Ohio — About 10,000 people in the United States may be wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year, a new study suggests.

    The results are based on a survey of 188 judges, prosecuting attorneys, public defenders, sheriffs and police

    chiefs in Ohio and 41 state attorneys general.

    The study also found that the most important factor leading to wrongful conviction is eyewitness misidentification.

    These findings are included in the new book Convicted But Innocent: Wrongful Conviction and Public Policy (Sage Publications, 1996). The book was written by C. Ronald Huff, director of the Criminal Justice Research Center and the School of Public Policy and Management at Ohio State University; Arye Rattner, professor of sociology at the University of Haifa, Israel; and the late Edward Sagarin, who was a professor of sociology at City College and CityUniversity of New York.

    More here.

  36. Inmate's Wife says:

    Oh Piranha, if only I lived in a world where everything was as black and white as it apparently is in yours. Life would be so much simpler.

    You seem to think that everyone in jail are worthless career criminals who should be locked up the rest of their lives and treated like animals. That simply isn’t the case.

    You say you don’t commit or become suspected of committing crimes? Think you are safe from all of that? The line is suprisingly thin between you and them. I thought that I would never be a part of this world 12 months ago when I was living my white picket fence life: a dual-career college educated couple with a young child and our own home. I’m even a nationally renowned expert in my field. We’re a respectable family in every sense of the word.

    And then one day my husband had an epic psychiatric meltdown from an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. The result was a cascading series of events that over the course of the day, culminated in his arrest after he was in an auto accident.

    And suddenly, that world was mine and my husband’s. All because he lost control of his actions on that day because of a mental disorder.

    It’s easy to justify treating inmates inhumanely when you think of them only as evil irredeemable criminals. But many, many good people become ensnared in the justice system in this country because of mental health and addiction problems. It’s why we incarcerate a larger percentage of our population than any other country on the planet. We criminalize people who should be receiving medical and psychiatric care instead.

    These people are someone’s husband, wife, son, daughter, mother, father…they are people.

    Most of these people will get out some day. If you treat inmates like animals by cutting them off from nurturing human relationships, you turn them into animals. How do you expect them to behave like constructive members of human society when you let them out when you’ve cut them off from any positive forces in their life for so long?

    Make inmates and suspects pay for the services and food they receive? How do you exactly expect them to do that? They have no income behind bars. (Sorry, the few cents per hour that a handful of inmates make in prison work programs doesn’t add up as actual income. If I could lose it in my couch and not notice, it’s not actual income.) What you’d really be doing is charging the families for the burden of the incarceration, families that are already bearing a huge burden most likely for having lost a wage earner, caregiver or other contributor in some way. Say you’ll wait till they get out and then send them a bill? Great…again, it is the family bearing the burden indirectly because a newly released prisoner has greatly reduced income earning potential than prior to incarceration so the family takes a double hit financially – less income and having to pay back the debt. Why not do some research about how many of the families of prisoners are living in poverty?

    Committing a crime doesn’t mean that people don’t have basic human rights. Even the freaking Geneva Convention says you can write a letter for heaven’s sake.

    You want your jails to have the resources to devote to keeping the really dangerous people off the streets instead of “bonding out in alarming numbers”? Get your representatives in Washington and Tallahassee to change the laws so that those jails aren’t stuffed with people who aren’t actually a danger to anyone. Then there will be plenty of room for the true anti-socials.

  37. Charles Ericksen Jr says:

    I think there’s alot to be leaned from the “Inmates Wife”, and her words .. Innocent until proven guilty. I think we watch too much TV, and only see the soon to be found gulty folks.

  38. Captain Courageous says:

    Certainly not a perfect system but I think there is a little confusion here betwen a jail and a prison.
    I can see clearly the frustration of Inmate’s Wife but with all due respect Mr. Erickson, we have one side of the story here and it’s not complete.
    We can surely be compassionate but without knowing the reasoning for the start of her husbands episode or the end result of it, we should also assume that there could be others (victims) tied into this who deserve our compassion as well.

  39. Inmate's Wife says:

    I’m not really sure what relevance “the reasoning for the start of my husband’s episode” has to our family’s being worthy of compassion. My husband had a mental breakdown, period. The extreme personal and professional pressures that he was under that lead to that moment will remain unmentioned in this forum because they could be used to identify me. And the reason why is irrelevant. He had a mental health crisis and the results were that he ended up in prison.

    Yes, since it’s so important to you to know, the accident my husband was in was unfortunately an injury accident. About which he has terrible remorse and for which everything possible has been done to make amends. But that doesn’t change my central point – that he needs mental health treatment, not prison. He’s not a gun wielding gang banger living a life of crime who will go back to his posse the minute the handcuffs are taken off of him. He’s a man with a problem who had a very bad day with disastrous consequences, and who is working hard to fix his life now. Incarcerating him doesn’t fix anything, or serve as a future deterrent. HE WASN’T IN HIS RIGHT MIND. HE WASN’t MAKING RATIONAL DECISIONS. He lost his job, our family was financially devastated, and he was going to have a criminal record that shadowed him the rest of his life regardless of whether he was locked up or received some other adjudication. He was going to have lifelong consequences either way. But in there, it’s highly unlikely he’ll get the effective treatment that he needs to become healthy and make sure something like this never happens again. Instead, the state is just causing him further mental trauma to have to try to recover from. That isn’t constructive for anyone involved in this. The only thing it accomplishes is revenge. Not making the streets safer. Not deterring him from future crime. And revenge isn’t supposed to be what our system is about.

    I’m not confused about the difference between a jail and a prison. Not everyone in a jail is being held pre-trial and not convicted. Jails are also used to hold inmates who have sentences of less than a year. They also hold inmates who will eventually be convicted but who are awaiting the completion of their legal process and who are unable to make bond. In my husband’s case this process would have taken about 7 months. In many more complex cases it is longer. Many people spend significant amounts of time held in these places. They aren’t all short-timers waiting their few weeks to get in and out.

  40. Captain Courageous says:

    I see I am correct in my assumption as to the end result.

    When you say it was an injury accident which had disasterous results I imagine that someone was injured to the point where life for that person has been altered. What would you expect had it been the other way around? Would you expect a person to be able to walk away from any responsibility from something that by your own admission had disasterous results?
    I read your comments and do feel that you are a victim as well. Not a victim of the system, but of your husbands actions that tossed you into a whirlwind you did not ask for nor did you deserve. Of course your family is worthy of compassion as well. You misread my last comment but maybe the consequences to you are on a smaller scale compared to that of the physically injured. What about compassion for them as well? Just like you, they did not ask for it.

  41. The Piranha says:

    Again, I believe this post has turned into much more than what it is. A postcard vs. letter and that’s all. Sorry, I still believe this is the proper way for inmates and prisoners alike to receive mail. No hidden messages, no extra time, no contraband and certainly not a violation of anyone’s constitutional rights.

  42. Inmate's Wife says:

    Captain Courageous you read way too much into my comment about disastrous consequences – I meant that the consequences of him having a bad day were that he ended up in prison. Which is not the usual result for a person of them having a bad day.

    This thread somehow became about my husband when it is supposed to be about prisoner’s rights. But once again this whole conversation just proves that to most people in this country the constitution is something that they only point to when they like what it says, and they conveniently ignore it when they don’t like what it says.

    We’ve become a nation of people who don’t believe in the fact that something can be right even if it is unpopular. And that is very, very, very scary.

    But…whatever. Conversations like this flow to the lowest common denominator. I’m just banging my head against a wall.

  43. The Piranha says:

    Postcard vs. letter, let’s not make it any more than that and that is still quite Constitutional. The End.

  44. THE JAIL BRAKER says:

    i feel sorry for all this loosers couch potatoes zombies, stickin up for a right violation.. all this people talkin so much ignorant.. i guess all of you people are so happy with all your rights been taken away..people please if you were in jail you wont be talkin all this madness pro rights violations constitutional rights people and fleming and all you corrupts. not correct. make me vomit on your moms grave.. stupid zombies..

  45. THE JAIL BRAKER says:

    brakin news is bombs on the post cards…and weapons of massdestruction not seduction… feel sorry for the resident……i dont care who you are and am a human bieng i got rights i got people need to wake up of that dream….rights violation need to stop

  46. Concern Citizen says:

    Just thought i would share a story i am to well familiar with, I to have been incarcirated in flagler’s facility. Not having committed a crime at all. To wait patiently for 30 days without having a clue of who committed it. The honest truth 30 days seemed more like years. Not a day went by i did not cry, not because i was there , i do believe if the crime is done then the time must be done as well, but because i was completely innocent. Yeah,thats what they all say when they enter these doors i was told. Having only my mail coming in and going out the only way i could keep going. My visitation was limited being that my family was not in the state and coming from a family that could not afford the collect calls i depended on my mail.Being released 30 days later with a full apology from the sheriff dept for a complete mistake done only on their part (mistake in identity).Place yourself in that situation and imagine sending all your thoughts and emotions on a index card. They are still humans and still have family and friends who would love to hear from them by a letter.

  47. Richard says:

    I guess i missed this story when it was first posted and thank Concern Citizen for reigniting it with a comment. I have never been inside a jail and hope never to be, but I do know people that have. In fact I think it is almost impossible for anyone in Palm Coast who has had a house built in the last 10 years NOT to have been in close contact with an “ex” somewhere on their construction team whether they knew it or not. I can think of several workers that admitted it to me once they found that I was not going to have them kicked out of work if it did not impact the job they did. Usually it was some youthful indiscretion that got them there and was now a permanent blot on their life.
    We do our society a great injustice by painting EVERYONE in jail as killers and threats to society. Yes, there are those in jail that are, and they need to be dealt with appropriately. There are those who have committed other serious crimes that merit punishment, but will eventually be released. There are those who have committed more minor crimes that we hope wil return to normal society. There are those who have been convicted at a first trial but are waiting appeal. There are those that have not yet been convicted of anything and are therefore supposed to be presumed innocent.
    Policies should differentiate between these categories, or we will drive all inmates further away from the return to society that we hope should be the result of a proper criminal justice system. Inmates that have not been tried, or are serving relatively short sentences, should be allowed every opportunity to maintain a normal emotional family relationship, including letters and family photos. Perhaps “Captain Courageous” only communicates with his wife in short postcard phrases, but that should not be set as the norm for every relationship. Inmates who expect to return to their lives have a multitude of financial, work, family and personal issues that have to be dealt with while they are in jail. They should be allowed the chance to do that other than on a simple postcard.


  49. Dr. Feelgood says:


    It’s a JAIL not a prison… it’s a transient population in a jail versus being permanent in a prison.

  50. palmcoaster says:

    Totally agree with Louise and Inmate’s Wife. If I would be put in jail for 30 days by the sheriff error, sure I will sue him for whatever possible. Are we becoming the USAR? Give those inmates their letters!! I thought that we want to re-educate and integrate them back to society right? Or want to keep them locked to generate more profits for the privately run prisons? Look a AZ’s Governor Jane Drinkwine Brewer cozy relationship with her state privately run prisons. Of course she is imprisoning illegal’s after passing 1070, generating big profits for those jailers on the taxpayers pockets.

  51. palmcoaster says:

    Also please, give them those donated books as well….We built a palace for King Hammond but do not have room in the jail for some books for the inmates? Give me a break with such an inhumane standards. Permanent wars and financial, political, religious and race prejudice is what keeps Americans looking for relief in substance and crowding jails. Maybe when we stop trying to save the world and instead go back to help our own first, then will need less jails and prisons.

  52. RicardoLEO says:

    Mass incarceration in the United States continues at record high levels despite outsized costs. According to recent data reported in The Economist, the United State has the world’s highest incarceration rate, locking up five times more people per capita than Britain, nine times more than Germany, and 12 times more than Japan. For 2010 the US rate was 748 per 100,000 population, Russia = 600, Brazil = 245, Iran = 220, Britain = 148, China = 124, Canada = 122, France = 98, Germany = 76, Japan = 71.

    In summary, the United State is considered the most punitive country in the world. But we still have one of the highest crime rates of any county in the world. There must be more innovative ways to save money in jails and prisons than banning letters to or from inmates.

    • interested reader says:

      This is very interesting! In my opinion Law Enforcement is more of a business than anything else. It has gotten way out of control. The number one interest is money! That’s one reason why their trying to save some. I don’t like crime either. But now days almost anything is a crime. I’ve seen our liberties erode a great deal over the course of my 49 years. Things were better in the old days. It seems like taking away the ability to communicate with family and friends is just another one that some would like to see disappear also.

      The bad people should be locked up. But most people shouldn’t be.

      If you have ever done any time you would know that every hour of every day you are being punished. That’s called doing time. The conditions that you have to deal with every day. That is the punishment. When I was in the county jail I did’t have many money. They wouldn’t even supply shampoo. My head was so bad with sores that I had to trade some of the little bit of food I got just to barter shampoo from another inmate, which is against jail rules, bartering. The food was so poor in nutrition it was almost unbelievable. I was released but in much poorer health. The razor they give you is from china and won’t cut without pulling out your beard. They pass one around 1 time a week. The bunks are hard. You have to deal with the moods of the other inmates and the guards alike. It is punishment. Some people have children and families who care about them. They should be able to at least communicate with them.

      The system is always taking one example of an instance to make a broad encroaching ruling against everybody. There will always be an offender who will do something like try to put something under a postage stamp, but that would be a 1000 to 1 instance and not the norm.

      Their are always special interest who try to get their way by using propaganda as a tool. Most of them are hypocrites in some way or another. You realize that when they finally get caught doing something that some other group has deemed is against the law and got it put on the books.

      Most people are busy bodies and can’t mind their own business. A crime should only be what someone else does to somebody else. Not victimless occurrences that are deemed crimes in the eyes of a special interest group.

      It’s politically incorrect to legalize something like marijuana even when prescription drugs are far more dangerous and available. It’s about money and saving face. It’s political suicide to vote for legalizing marijuana.

      I’ve seen the same corrections officers who abuse inmates and tell them to settle their own disputes in their own way with violence being caught bringing cell phones and cigarettes and other contraband into the institution. They are above the law until they are finally caught. County jails are maximum security institutions and a secret code in a letter is not going to make any difference in reality. It’s more like a kid playing fun and games. And if their is a true gangster in the midst of the prisoners a postage stamp or an index card isn’t going to make the least bit of difference. They will just put a corrections officer in their pocket. It’s business as usual. Everyone is still subject to human nature. It’s just another ploy to get what they want by using the same old tactics that have gotten them what they wanted all along the way. So why stop now.

      As far as how to prevent crime I don’t know or best way to punish or rehabilitate?

      What do you call someone who tortures little animals. That is what some people are like who want to put their ideas on everyone else. Until they are exposed they will run their mouths and torture everyone else and enforce their beliefs on the rest of society. Just wait, everyone get’s caught at something in time.

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