For most prison inmates, regular communication with friends and family in the free world is essential to their survival amidst social isolation. Thanks to modern technology, prisoners no longer need to rely on handwritten letters and phone calls to communicate with loved ones.
Today, friends and family can communicate with their incarcerated loved ones through email, video messages and video visits. However, whenever someone communicates with a prison inmate, the facility monitors and/or records the communication.
There are many rules when it comes to prisoner exchanges, and they vary from facility to facility. With prisoner mail, the rules don’t just cover what you send and how you send it. They also limit the content of communications.
Letters discussing details of crimes, escape plans and sexually explicit content are flagged by prison staff and never received by prisoners. But are prison officials strict enough to ban specific words in inmate mail? Can you swear on a prison letter?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- swearing allowed in prisoner mail
- Prison emails are closely monitored
- Letters from friends and family matter to prison inmates
swearing allowed in prisoner mail
The answer to today’s question is yes, and you can swear it in prison. It’s one of the few ways that prisoners’ constitutional right to free speech is preserved in an institutional setting.
Swearing in other circumstances – such as against an official giving orders – is strictly prohibited. In fact, it might end up with an all-paid tour of the pokey (better known as the hole).
Prison emails are closely monitored
In many ways, the content of prison emails is closely monitored. Read all incoming or outgoing mail to ensure personal and institutional safety is maintained. Obviously, inmates should not send threatening emails to victims or their family members or anyone else, nor should inmates be concerned about receiving emails containing any threats.
Another thing that is closely monitored in offending emails is pornography. A certain amount of flirting and sexual wordplay is acceptable. However, if a letter is deemed definitive, the agency will not send or accept it.
If offenders receive email that is determined to be sexually explicit, they will be called back to see their case manager and asked if they want the letter to be returned to the sender or destroyed.
Offenders’ mail is also checked to make sure it does not contain contraband of any kind. Not only do drugs and obviously illegal items not be allowed at the institution, but many other items are also not allowed, depending on the prison.
For example, at the prison where inmate Mistie Vance has spent the past decade, she says photos cannot be sent with letters. Instead, they must be sent individually, and you can only contain a certain number of pictures in each envelope.
Other messages that may be rejected include stickers, bookmarks, excessive attachments, and certain types of cards. Before attempting to send mail that contains anything other than letters, it’s a good idea to check with the agency you’re sending mail to to find out their policies.
Letters from friends and family matter to prison inmates
Sending and receiving mail is one of the ways inmates can get involved in the world outside the prison and keep in touch with friends and family, so the content should be as honest and natural as possible.
The way you talk to your loved ones when they’re outside (besides sexually explicit conversations) is how you should talk in prison letters. Prison can be a very lonely place and it is important for prisoners to have emotional support from outside the prison.
Knowing they haven’t been forgotten and are loved is an added motivation. Letters from friends and family help prisoners use the time to better themselves so they can better provide their loved ones with the life they deserve.
Prison mail is mostly accepted as is, although it is monitored. Whether or not your letter contains profanity, make sure your letter contains what really matters. Never miss an opportunity without letting the one you love know that they are loved, valued, and trusted.
“No matter what mistakes a person makes, it is not our mistakes that define us. Who we are in life is who we choose to be when we wake up every morning, and the more love and support a person has, the easier that decision will be. Forever Remember, love changes everything,” said inmate Mistie Vance.
Do you often write letters to people in prison? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Interview with inmate Mistie Vance, Chillicothe Correctional Center