One more way that the criminal (in)justice system is whittling away at the small pleasures in life for the incarcerated in a Florida county: now their loved ones have to write extra teeny tiny. That’s because now, based on a new directive, they will only be allowed to receive postcards. No S.W.A.K. allowed.
Pictures will have to be printed on postcards, and envelopes won’t be allowed, unless they contain legal correspondence.
Capt. Tom Eberhardt, assistant commander of corrections services, said the new policy is in response to the biohazard threat that locked down Charlotte County Jail last month when a mail clerk fell ill after opening a letter containing a white powdered substance.
“That’s happening more and more in the country because of the times we’re living in,” Eberhardt said. “We’re doing this for the safety and security of the staff and the inmates.”
As acallidryas says in her post (linked above), this is a serious overreaction. There’s no indication that the white powder was a biohazard and the jail has already strengthened its mail-checking procedures. For many people, the letters from home and the pictures contained in them are the most frequent and strongest connection to home. Nevermind that many incarcerated men and women participate in correspondence courses (how’s THAT going work?).
Beyond being just plain silly, the program helps ensure that recidivism rates will remain high. How? Well, it’s commonly accepted that people who return home to a family or other community support are less likely to reoffend. The harder it becomes for people to stay in meaningful touch with those family members, the harder it will be for them to reconnect with family upon community re-entry.
The Second Chance Act (signed into law last week) is a great step. But what happens between that first chance and the second one matters a whole lot too.