Legal Analysis and Commentary from Justia

Is It a First Amendment Violation When A Prison Limits Inmates’ Ability to Solicit Pen-Pals? An Eleventh Circuit Decision Wrongly Says No

Last year, on December 22, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a federal district court’s grant of summary judgment in a case involving prisoners’ First Amendment and due process rights.  In this column, I’ll argue that the court made the wrong call.

The First Amendment standard for rules that apply to prisoners is lower than the standard for rules that apply to others:  It requires only that a challenged policy must bear a rational relationship to a legitimate penological interest.

Yet there was a strong argument, here, that the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) policy at issue failed to meet even that low bar.

The Plaintiff, the Services, and the Rule at Issue

The rule at issue was the FDOC’s Pen Pal Solicitation Rule—which prohibits inmates from placing advertisements for pen-pals.

The plaintiff in the case was Joy Perry, who operates two pen-pal services, Freedom in Christ Prison Ministry and Prison Pen Pals, and the website WriteAPrisoner.com (“WAP”).  (WAP also, laudably, provides inmates with educational materials and an online resume-posting service, and offers scholarships to the children of inmates and of crime victims.)

The two pen-pal services connect prisoners with those who would like to correspond with them, by sending out lists of prisoners to interested persons on the outside, and vice-versa. Their services are provided free of charge.  WAP charges $40 per year to inmates who seek to post advertisements for pen-pals on its website.

But now, under the Pen Pal Solicitation Rule, Florida inmates cannot avail themselves of these services.

The Claimed Reasons for the Pen Pal Solicitation Rule

Strikingly, FDOC did not cite a single case of a Florida prisoner’s pen-pal solicitation going wrong, or doing harm, in any way.  It cited concerns about fraud, but apparently could not cite a single case of pen-pal-related inmate fraud that had occurred in Florida.

Instead, FDOC relied upon a former FDOC employee’s testimony, and upon what the court called “anecdotal evidence from newspaper reports around the country.”

In practically any other legal context, this paltry showing would not be enough.  Only the low bar that the “rational relationship” test, cited above, sets could possibly have led to FDOC’s win on the First Amendment issue.

There was also a due process issue raised here:  After the policy was put in place, all Perry’s organizations’ correspondence to inmates was returned to sender – whether or not it constituted pen-pal solicitation. Thus, those organizations’ other good works were impeded.

Meanwhile, another organization, Christian Pen Pals, was allowed to offer FDOC prisoners one-to-one pen-pal matching, on the dubious ground that that did not count as a kind of pen-pal solicitation.  The claim was that one-to-one matching, as opposed to the circulation of a list containing a number of persons’ contact information, decreases the risk of fraud.

Here, too, however, it seems that FDOC did not cite any actual fraud that had occurred.  And here, too, in any other legal context, that lack of evidence would have crippled FDOC’s argument.

In Theory, Prisoners Have First Amendment Rights, but a Watered-Down Test Means That, in Practice, They May Not

In reaching its result, the Eleventh Circuit panel cited a spate of Supreme Court cases that affirm that prisoners have First Amendment rights, and so do those persons who seek to correspond with them.  Even advertising brochures sent to prisoners, the panel noted, may fall under this rule.

But the panel also cited cases constricting prisoners’ First Amendment rights.  Such cases upheld, for instance, a ban on hardback books (with an exception for books from certain trusted sources) because they might contain contraband.

The panel focused especially on the seminal 1987 case of Turner v. Safley.  There, the Supreme Court set forth the “reasonable relationship to legitimate penological interests” test that I cited above.

It also set forth the following four factors, to aid courts in applying that test: (1) whether there is “a valid, rational connection between the regulation and the prison’s legitimate governmental interest;” (2) “whether there are alternative means of exercising the right;” (3) “the impact accommodation of the asserted constitutional right will have on guards and other inmates, and on the allocation of prison resources;” and (4) “the existence of obvious, easy alternatives [, which] may be evidence that the regulation is not reasonable, but is an exaggerated response to prison concerns.”

The Application of the Supreme Court’s Turner Test in This Case

Regarding the first factor of the Turner test, the Eleventh Circuit panel held that a rational connection was proven by an expert affidavit claiming that when prisoners’ pen-pals are acquired via personal associates, not pen-pal companies, the chance of the prisoner’s defrauding the pen-pal is lower.

 

That’s common sense—in that people are less likely to defraud a stranger than a friend (or a friend of a friend).  But given that FDOC could not come up with a single actual case of pen-pal fraud in its own long history, the question of which set of persons is more likely to be defrauded than the other seems somewhat academic.

 

Surely the Ninth Circuit—which resolved a parallel case that this Eleventh Circuit opinion cites—was right to require actual evidence of fraud in this context, not just a prison official’s self-interested guess as to what kind of fraud is more likely.

 

Moving on the second factor of the Turner test, the Eleventh Circuit panel concluded that there were, indeed, alternative avenues through which the inmates could exercise their First Amendment rights. But the panel’s logic, here, was faulty.

 

Essentially, the panel saw the core right here as the right to correspond, not the right to solicit correspondence.  But that can’t be correct:  The very gist of this case is the right of the inmate to solicit—including by posting his own advertisements.

 

Thus, even if the plaintiffs – the two pen-pal organizations and WAP—were to offer one-to-one pen-pal matching, as the Eleventh Circuit panel suggests that they could, the inmates themselves would still have their First Amendment rights separately compromised by the prison policy against solicitation.  And so, arguably, would the organizations working with the inmates to enable them to vindicate those rights.

Regarding the third factor of the Turner test—the impact on guards, inmates, and prison resources—the Eleventh Circuit panel found a significant impact, due to anticipated bulk mail resulting from prisoner solicitation of pen-pals.  According to prison officials, that additional mail would need to be sorted through with an eye to fraud, thus consuming resources and diverting staff.

But given FDOC’s inability to cite even one specific case of past pen-pal fraud in its prisons, wouldn’t it be tremendously wasteful to initiate broad screening for such fraud?  The screening would be like looking for a needle in a haystack—a haystack where no other needles had been found.

Surely, it would be easier for the prison, instead, to take other measures.  For instance, it could request—or perhaps even require, though that would raise other First Amendment questions—that the two pen-pal services and WAP warn those who seek to write to inmates, as a result of reading their pen-pal solicitations, to be wary of certain kinds of offers and requests that inmates might make, and that should be refused.

Pen-pal arrangements can provide prisoners with vital hope and a precious connection to the outside world; they may also pose some dangers, but those dangers can be warned against.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense for FDOC to try to work with the pen-pal services and WAP, rather than cracking down on them?  A regulation requiring that disclosures be made by the services, and by WAP, of the risks of corresponding with inmates would be far less burdensome, from a free-speech standpoint, than a blanket ban on pen-pal solicitation by inmates.

Finally, in considering the fourth factor of Turner’s test, the Eleventh Circuit panel looked to alternative means to prevent pen-pal scams that would impose a lesser burden on First Amendment rights.  Here, too, the panel mentions the one-to-one matching pen-pal services, and an alternative that would have the two pen-pal service plaintiffs and WAP switch to one-to-one matching.  But again, here, the right is the right to solicit, not just the right to correspond.  Thus, this purported solution actually is no solution at all, from a First Amendment perspective.

In sum, the Eleventh Circuit should have required at least some evidence of actual fraud before instituting its harsh anti-solicitation rule.  The Ninth Circuit was wise not to simply believe the vouching of prison officials in this context; the Eleventh Circuit should have done the same.

Julie HildenJulie Hilden, a Justia columnist, graduated from Yale Law School, practiced First Amendment law at the D.C. law firm of Williams & Connolly from 1996-99 and has been writing about First Amendment issues for over a decade. Hilden is also a novelist. In reviewing Hilden's novel, 3, Kirkus Reviews praised Hilden's "rather uncanny abilities," and Counterpunch called it "a must read... a work of art." Her website’s address is www.juliehilden.com.
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  • LGD

    This is an excellent and thorough response to
    an unprecedented and unbelievable ruling that created a chilling effect on
    First Amendment rights. With no evidence whatsoever, the 11th Circuit
    ruled with a somewhat flippant and dismissive approach as if to say, “They’re
    only inmates. Who cares?” Hilden’s points are squarely positioned, but the one
    that jumps out to me is: “Wouldn’t it have made more sense for FDOC to try to
    work with the pen-pal services and WAP, rather than cracking down on them?”
    Yes, it would. So, this ruling begs the question: What is the motive for not working with them?

     

     

    • cel524

      Exactly my point! They are slowly starting to take away rights and people around are not seeing it, it’s little things like these, that people need to stand up for and show our government that we do have a voice and we will be heard.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WT4OJXA3N5XPLTY5T7GTWWAESA Melissa

    Why are the courts wasting valuable time and tax dollars concerning themselves with and issue they state themseleves isnt even an issue? If there has been no wrong doing, no evidence of fraud then leave these people alone and go do something about something that IS a problem for society, eh?

  • Lueiia

    To whom it may concern,

    I have had nothing but positive experiences with writeaprisoner.com
    and I believe it would be a big shame if a panel of federal judges ban the site
    for prisoners in Florida. I met the love of my life on this site. We were
    writing for two years and when he got out, he moved in with me and everything is
    going GREAT! If it wasn’t for writeaprisoner.com I would have never met the love
    of my life. I support writeaprisoner.com and believe it is a amazing site and
    brings people together that would have never met in any other circumstance.
    Thank you writeaprisoner.com for enriching my life and helping me find the man
    of my dreams! THANK YOU!

  • Br Tikhon

    I am mystified as to why this case was raised. What were the antecedent situations that caused the FDOC rule? How are inmates to get pen pals if they can’t ask for them?  I also don’t understand why the FDOC is afraid it may have to hire additional staff to handle an increase in inmate mail. It doesn’t appear to have bothered prison and government officials before to build more prisons and to staff them. I’ve been writing to a prisoner for over a year. During that time he has never asked me for anything. I know mail call for him is the height of his day. I’m sure it is for other prisoners as well. What I discuss with my pen pal has to do with matters of the spirit. I’ve introduced Benedictine spirituality (from the Rule of St. Benedict) to him and this has opened up his world. He’s really taken to it. If it weren’t for writeaprisoner.com we would never have met. I’m sure this is true for all prisoners who use this service. It’s very sad the FDOC wants to take away the outreach of writeaprisoner.com.

  • guest

    Do not ban WAP services!! Pen pal correspondence is a much needed emotional/creative outlet for many inmates! Letters can help keep a prisoner grounded, feel invested in society, and keep them preoccupied.

  • Cameron Murphy

    It is crucial for lowering the rate of recidivism to allow prisoners contact with people outside. I am a long-time pen-pal for a prisoner in the California prison system and can attest to the importance of our letter writing on this man’s journey to rebuilding his life in a way in accord with the stated laws of our nation.

  • Esha

    Ive heard about what’s happening and i just want to share my opinion and my story about writhing with prisoners.
    I come frome The Netherlands and like to write with prisoners..
    Why?! Because they also need someone to share theyre feelings, passions,love,friendship and story.Also i enjoy it allot!
    I always will have someone to tell how i feel,what happend .And dont get me wrong, but i never have known someone that could tell about live more passionate then the prissoners ive been talking to.They are my inspirition to live my life right and enjoy every single bit of it.

  • Joost International

    More and more “Fraud” is mentioned as one of the reasons to prohibit the inmate for using service of organizations like Freedom in Christ Prison Ministry and Prison Pen Pals. What strikes me as odd is that is because of these organizations that “Fraud” is prevented because pen pals using the service are provided with information regarding Fraud. It is said that inmates are more likely to defraud a stranger or a friend of a friend than a family member, even thought eh Florida Deparment of Corrections did not have any proof of that. What they forget is that the friendship between a pen pal and an inmate is a true friendship. In order to start off a good friendship is it important to have as much information as possible regarding the inmate, a (screened) profile on websites like http://www.writeaprisoner.com are an essential part to make the first connection. How do you befriend someone? Because of common interest! How do you know what the common interests are if you have to select an inmate of the generic FDOC website? It is better for the FDOC to work with Freedom in Christ Prison Ministry and Prison Pen Pals than against them, they are doing a good and important job. An inmate that corresponds is less likely to get him/herself into trouble than an isolated inmate!

  • Dom

    I have been writing to an inmate for 3 years now. We are only friends -no romance involved-. I am an educated woman with a mind of her own. I am not crazy nor damaged in any way… What is the difference between giving your time to a prisoner and giving your time to any other charity. For my part, I see writing to a prisoner as an act of charity (i am not religious). Everybody needs somebody at some stage in their lives. What has happened to human rights? Those men and women will be going back to society at some stage. They need our help with their re-education of the outside world. We are their eyes and ears. Noboby does anything wrong here and all those concerns about fraud are unfounded. It is totally out of order and take our rights away. In any case, what happened to innocent until proven guilty?

  • Cherrypie_v1_mindfreak

    Who cares ? Let them be able to talk to someone new and someone you can share story’s with , everyday experiences , it’s not like their killing anyone their simple letters. Let them have the freedom of speaking to another human being !

  • Jessica Smith

    Writeaprisoner gave me a true friendship with someone.  The overview that all prisoners are deadbeats and everything else is wrong.  Everyone has made mistakes in their lives.  The friend that I have received from writeaprisoner has not got in trouble the whole time he has been incarcerated, finished all his vocationals, is very intelligent, and a christian.  He really realizes he made a mistake and is paying for it.  Who are they to take away from friendship and any possible light that they have in there.  I am appauled by this entire thing. 

  • CNguyen

    WriteAPrisoner.com and everything they stand for is a good idea in my opinion. Some of these people are trying to turn their lives around and need positive moral support. Sometimes these people are just in need of someone to talk to. Writing letters is a more positive way of coping than violence. It shows effort. Please fight against banning penpal letters to prisoners, it may not only be the prisoner they are helping.

  • Anonymous

    The USA struggles with world wide highest prisoner rate. Return to community has been discussed at least since 10 years. Example: “When Prisoners Return to Communities: Political, Economic, and Social Consequences” (2000) http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/184253.pdf
    and Catch and Release, By Margaret Talbot, The Atlantic Monthly | February 1, 2003 http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2003/catch_and_release
    Is There a Job for Lawyers as Healers of Conflict?

    http://www.opednews.com/articles/Is-There-a-Job-for-Lawyers-by-Sylvia-Clute-110715-710.html

    I am afraid lawmen at courts reduce themselves more and more to caterer of The Prison Industrial Complex. I see balanced social responsibility a necessity.
    Contacts to citizen of the free world are necessary from the first day of incarceration on. Dare saying this from experience as member of Registered Society within Association for Probation and Offenders’ Assistance in fed state of Germany.

  • caroline

    For the last 10 years I have been writing to prisoners,some of them through the write a prisoner website.
    I have seen the change prisoners went through when they finally had a contact on the outside again.Many of them have been abandoned by their family and friends and wish for nothing more than to just have a friend to talk to.To open up to,to talk about things they cannot talk about with other prisoners.
    I can’t see how placing a penpal ad can cause any kind of problem for the judicial system,if any I think it helps inmates rehabilitate.
    They need to be aware of what life is like outside of the walls,it will make the transition from being in prison to getting released into society a whole lot easier because they know what to expect.
    I personally think it will also reduce the mental problems many inmates are suffering from,simply because they now know someone cares about them.
    Not even once did any of the guys I wrote to asked for anything,they just want someone to talk to about every day life.

  • Suburbanwifey

    I agree with this! I chose to write a prisoner as a friend (from the Write a Prisoner web site) to offer support and friendship. My experience was that these men mostly want to write to pen pals with a view to getting money from them. After 7 months and trying to be a friend to 3 of them and finding all 3 had similar motivation (money) I wished I had not bothered. To these inmates, pen pals are a business, a way to gain money. I agree with this ruling. From what I read on the web, rarely does any good come from it.

  • Suburbanwifey

    I agree with this! I chose to write a prisoner as a friend (from the Write a Prisoner web site) to offer support and friendship. My experience was that these men mostly want to write to pen pals with a view to getting money from them. After 7 months and trying to be a friend to 3 of them and finding all 3 had similar motivation (money) I wished I had not bothered. To these inmates, pen pals are a business, a way to gain money. I agree with this ruling. From what I read on the web, rarely does any good come from it.

  • Leontien_bleeker

    Ever since I started writing inmates, I’ve used WAP as it is by far the most professional site available. Inmates have very little contact with the outside world. Many families give up on them. The 5 guys I write have all told me in one way or another that their world has changed since they have a penpal. They feel someone cares, which decreases their aggression. Instead of wanting to have a go at someone, they pick up a pen and write. They know someone cares. Please do keep WAP on air! It is a great tool for inmates to find penpals and I feel it changes the life of prisoners in a positive way which in the end is a benefit to the prison, too.

  • Kacey_jai_smith

    Having a pen pal that the inmates can write to can help in helping them see there is a future and see that not everyone has the same view all co-respondance is checked and this eliminates the change for any wrong doing. I am a psychologist and i think that this type of communication is vital to help them realise that they are human and make mistakes and are still valued as humans not as monsters.
    Everyone no matter what should have the right to have communication, 
    I am shocked that they wot to shut down this right they they have. More wrong doings are done with in the prisons with inmates that will be leaving the prisions.
    I am in full support of keeping this life line open 

  • Patrick Vanhinderdael

    inmates need pen pals so don’t take that away from them !!!

  • Chauny

    My name is Chauntel from Australia, I am in nomeans knowledgeable about law, I would like readers to know I have been a member of Write a Prisoner for sometime now, I am so blessed to have met the most wonderful person I know through this service who I exchange letters with all the time, I would hope that the service continues because it helps us to help them and regardless everyone needs a friend. I SAY LEAVE WRITE A PRISONER ALONE!!!

  • Chris

    From a non U.S resident I am shocked and saddened by the decision coming from the court system of a supposedly ‘Free & Democratic Country’ that spews propaganda to the rest of the world regarding fair rights to EVERY man, woman & child.

    But really, what do you expect from a country that a man can be sent to prison for a life sentence if he is caught stealing food to eat 3 times over a couple of years.

    honestly folks, you guys are crazy
    if you continue at the rate your going your going to have a ‘corporate socialist society’ where the companies are feeding a healthy percentage of population over a oppressively controlled space without an authoritative body.

    that means your government has been replaced by a CEO running a ‘prison industrial complex’ where you actually have more men in prison and legal system than serving in your armed forces and in reality a far more oppressive dictatorship at the cruelest of ‘sub-human’ levels.

    wait up, has anyone done the stats on that?
    total men serving in armed forces
    against
    total men in prison, parole or probation systems
    – then break it down racially
    – then by ages

    The blatantly obvious fact here is that pen-pal services actually lighten the burden of both the state and the
    country as communication and friendships are often the best cures for
    depression and other types of mental illness which reduces the costs of medication and or treatment.

    It has been proven time and again that someone that has had no outside communication for years on end will eventually develop mental illnesses ranging from ‘Manageable’ to ‘Very Acute’ as numerous tests have shown, therefore the individual would be of a greater risk to society in general due to institutional conditioning.
    The most obvious of the by-products would be that of a ‘social disorder’ when the person has lost fundamental social skills and coping mechanism to adjust and cope in sometimes stressful situations.

    Why stop something that has a positive to all of society as a whole?

    a man with hope is more compliant and can be corrected, a man with no hope will become a by-product of that environment.

    Your founding fathers fled England due to being labelled as ‘dangerous criminals’ due to religious persecution so they formed a country that had ‘Liberty and Freedom for All’.
    im sure they wrote to people and received support letters whilst being criminals

    what happened?

    Just glad I live i Sydney!

  • Chillipeppers66

    More and more laws are being whipped out to stop, block and band things people do not like to support.  It is of no surprise to me trying to prevent inmates the right to communicate with the outside world is one of the new targets. I think it is too much time wasted on things which should be a persons’  rights to do or not do in many instances. We are not speaking on children soliciting penpals but adults.  We have the ability to make a decision  based on the freedoms which are afforded  to ADULTS.  Why on earth is any court interferring with this or wasting tax payers money. How about taking the time to revamp some of the many laws  already in place which make absolutely no sense.  Better yet do something beneficial like helping to restore the rights of our men and women who losted their right to vote.  Would this be too much of an order to do but lets infringe on what should be a right and choice to get a penpal.  Wow someone has too much time on thier hands.

  • Vez1980

    i have had a pen pal on death row now for 6 months i met on writeaprisioner.com i love writing to him i give him hope and joy to hes life that he has in there and iam glad that iam able to do that i think yes they may havr done wrong but there still human and still should have the write to talk to family and the outside world i wouldnt even treat an animal like that

  • Lucy

    As someone who used WriteAPrisoner.com to find a penpal, I am really dismayed by this ruling. Corresponding with my penpal, who I am honoured to call a friend, has challenged me and inspired me in so many ways. I must also say that WriteAPrisoner has, in my opinion, more than adequate safety guidelines on its website. The ruling is unnecessary and, as the previous commenter says, it makes one question not only the FDOC’s methods but also their motives. In my opinion this ruling will adversely affect the rehabilitation of Florida prisoners, who will no longer have this opportunity to express themselves. 

    In response to the FDOC’s assertation that high volumes of mail put demands on the time of prison staff, I can only suggest that perhaps they have incarcerated too many people. 

  • Anngibson

    write a prisioner. com is a life line for imates incasarated in the united states of america ,please think twice about abourting this service i write a lot of inmates and most of them do not have any loved ones to see them threw there darkest days i how would you feel if it was one of your children that was incasarated ,and also i met my fiance on write .a prisioner and this is were inmates can meet and write to many people over the world its there life line to the out side world its like cutting there blood line of all together so please reconsider your decision please sir thank you for your time

                                                      ann gibson 

  • Savage_heart2008

    I believe that anything taken away that is truly a positive motivation for anyone should be considered a violation of ones constitutional rights.  I have been a pen pal for the past 7 years and I have gotten some pretty strange requests but being who I am I do not adhere to the requests that are unreasonable.  I have grown a lot in my writing to inmates and the very first letter explains that respect is above and beyond the first rule. I don’t think that the government whether it be a single state or the entire US has the right to say who can receive mail from who, the only time I think that this should occur is if it is something that can cause harm to someone. As long as the letter’s adhere to the Prison’s rule guidelines then there should not be a problem. Get a life people they are someone’s brother, sister husband son or daughter too. Just because they got caught and you didn’t it does not make them any lower than you are.

  • Dean Parsons

    I think this is diabolical, and i am against this. I am a UK citizen, and i write to both men and women incarcerated. Some of their stories, and  what they talk about and tell you is something else. Not just for the incarcerated, but every morning i get excited checking my mail, and when a letter does come through it puts a smile on my face. Not only does it keep them busy, but it keeps me busy too. I feel that if they want to spend their hard earned cash on a piece of paper and stamps, then they should be allowed to. These people are incarcerated for a reason which is fair enough, but do you not think that taking “penpal” services away is practically taking away one last hope? Sometimes people are incarcerated and on death row for years, and jus that one little letter every few weeks could be the only thing they live for!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C5W764LE2AMSVF6CYLIY5YRQGU MS.2009

    I think that it is against the first amendment to try and ban this website. Prisoner’s dont have anything else to do or look forward to in jail why not get letters from kind people who care. If your going to ban this website then bring back College Degree programs to the institutions. Give our prisoners something to hope for.

  • Waylon

    I have been in correspondence with a prisoner in Texas through WriteAPrisoner for the last 6 months. It has been a very positive experience, and it would be a shame for both of us if this were allowed to stand. Prisoners already have it bad, why make it worse? They are humans too.
    Thanks for this article!
    Waylon

  • Idrussdyer977

    Keep fighting for prisioner rightS!!!!!There are many advocates for prisoners rights…  There are also some newspapers who will publish editorials for prisioners rights…
    Our son really was helped by his prisoner penpal.  She wrote letters of encouragement every month…She was a married lady who wanted to help someone feel of value and not just a prisioner…She was not a girlfriend  but a  penpal..  Peoples needs are not all based on love affairs!!!    Sometimes people need a friend and just someone to pay a little attention and say you are still a person worth my time to write a letter to…

  • Simples57

    I have had to priveledge of corresponding with a prisoner in Texas over the last year after responding to the penpal for prisoner site. I live near London so the chance of ever meeting in person is extremly remote. As far as i am concerned we  both benefit from this correspondence  in many ways… one of them NOT being any sort of fantasy relationship!! The experience of receiving a letter from the other has given us something to look forward to, catching up on each others lives is an enjoyable way to spend some time.  I consider it a sorry state of affairs when 2 adult human beings cannot talk through the written word,  i wish someone could tell me why what we are doing is now considered to be so wrong???  I thought the British were in a sorry state but looks like you Americans are begining to catch up!! one word sums this up for me SAD.

  • Lspellman4

    I believe that writing a prisoner should be allowed, whatever he/she has done does not mean they can not have outside contact I have written to several prison inmate in my life and have had no problems it has been something that I hope has been good for them. I am opposed to write a prisoner being shut down.

  • Donald G.

    This is yet another prison ruling and court ruling that shows the
    deplorable mentality of the Department of Corrections in Florida and in
    most of the nation.  Prison officials often seem to think that the Constitution has no place in penal institutions.

    I have been writing to prisoners of both genders for over three decades
    now and while a few have asked for things from me, it has usually been
    educational or writing materials and the ability to communicate by
    phone.

    What the prison officials and apparently the activist judges do not
    understand is that having pen pals on the outside generally helps
    prisoners in many areas including attitude, hope, spirituality, and the
    outside contact also helps reduce recidivism.

    As someone who is on the Board of non-profit organization that helps
    prisoners reintegrate into society upon release, I have seen first hand
    the positive benefits of pen pals and the ability to correspond and
    communicate with others on the outside.

    Or could it be that the prison officials wish to curtail mail in order
    to force prisoners and their families and friends to use the prison
    phone systems and/or email systems from which the prisons make kickbacks
    and money while the prisoners families pay price gouging rates just to
    talk and the companies and prison officials involved make obscene
    profits.

  • andrea

    I support Write A Prisoner. Do not shut them down, it is a great opportunity for inmates and incarcerated individuals to, in some way shape or form, get a glimpse of the “outside” world. If you were imprisoned, what would YOU prefer? 

  • andrea

    I support Write A Prisoner. Do not shut them down, it is a great opportunity for inmates and incarcerated individuals to, in some way shape or form, get a glimpse of the “outside” world. If you were imprisoned, what would YOU prefer? 

  • Emmabizzle

    I made a great friendship through writeaprisoner.com, it will be a huge loss to so many people if it was shut down.

  • Emmabizzle

    I made a great friendship through writeaprisoner.com, it will be a huge loss to so many people if it was shut down.

  • Emmabizzle

    I made a great friendship through writeaprisoner.com, it will be a huge loss to so many people if it was shut down.

  • Elizabeth

    The write a prisoner website is a much needed tool to help rehabilitate inmates back into society.

  • Elizabeth

    The write a prisoner website is a much needed tool to help rehabilitate inmates back into society.

  • Elizabeth

    The write a prisoner website is a much needed tool to help rehabilitate inmates back into society.

  • Nishant

    It is our basic instinct as humans to talk and share..taking that away from anybody is inhuman..i dont think prisoners should be cut off from the outside world..i think “write a prisioner” is doing positive work and such an effort should be supported

  • Nishant

    It is our basic instinct as humans to talk and share..taking that away from anybody is inhuman..i dont think prisoners should be cut off from the outside world..i think “write a prisioner” is doing positive work and such an effort should be supported

  • Nishant

    It is our basic instinct as humans to talk and share..taking that away from anybody is inhuman..i dont think prisoners should be cut off from the outside world..i think “write a prisioner” is doing positive work and such an effort should be supported

  • http://www.facebook.com/babathomas Mary Thomas

    keep  the  good  work up writeaprisoner .com  if  it  wasn’t  for  you  i wouldn’t  have met  my husband we got marry last october  he get out  next month thank you so much mary 

  • http://www.facebook.com/babathomas Mary Thomas

    keep  the  good  work up writeaprisoner .com  if  it  wasn’t  for  you  i wouldn’t  have met  my husband we got marry last october  he get out  next month thank you so much mary 

  • http://www.facebook.com/babathomas Mary Thomas

    keep  the  good  work up writeaprisoner .com  if  it  wasn’t  for  you  i wouldn’t  have met  my husband we got marry last october  he get out  next month thank you so much mary 

  • Mct1952

    thank  you  writeaprisoner.com keep the  good work up  if it wouldn’t have been for  your pen -pal  iwouldn’t  have met my husband  we got  marry  last october an he get out  next month  thank you so much mary

  • Mct1952

    thank  you  writeaprisoner.com keep the  good work up  if it wouldn’t have been for  your pen -pal  iwouldn’t  have met my husband  we got  marry  last october an he get out  next month  thank you so much mary

  • Steven Paul Lavoie

    It is absolutely a violation of the First Amendment and yet another demonstration of why the American people have become so disenamoured of our once noble and patriotic courts. More and more they are demonstrating themselves to be mere agents of repression in an increasingly autocratic society.

  • mary

    Should not be band. They need people to talk to. Some are not guilty of a crime;this has been proven several times. Do not takes these rights away it is against the consitution.

  • Scott

    IT IS INDEED  A FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS VIOLATION,ALSO A COMMUNISTIC  GOV’T CONTROL MANEUVER,WHEN ACTIVIST “JUDGES’ SEEK TO INHIBIT MY CORRESPONDING WITH INMATES IN EVIL GOV’T DEMONIC VIOLATION OF MY FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS -SUCH IS FOREVER CONSTITUTIONALLY PROHIBITED PERMANENTLY-GIVING RISE TO LEGAL ACTIONS IN UNJUST ILLICIT COURT OPINIONS.

  • denise

    I’ve visited write a prisoner website more than a few times and kept correspondence with some of the inmates ..and these are just men who want to pay their dues to society and come out and better themselves I believe that the companionship that this website service provids them could help tame promiscuous behavior or thoughts… on the other hand though um I would like to say that I hope write a prisoner corporation is taking the necessary steps on allowing on the inmates who have a good behavior and are not sentence for aggravated assault or rape crimesb

  • Valentina

    Yes, it is a violation. It does not matter that individuals are in prison either falsely accused or for actual wrongdoing. Prison is supposedly a place for them to think about their life and what placed them there. And for them to rectify themselves. Well how can they do that without the help of the outside world?  The rights of an individual do not vanquish just because they are in prison. The First Amendment is not just for freedom of speech but also of the press. Placing ads for penpals is a type of “press”.  

    The First Amendment of the Constitution states: ”
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    That last sentence, “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” means:
    1. To set right, remedy or rectify. 2. To make amends for. n. 1. Satisfaction for wrong done; reparation. 2. Correction.

    If the Government decides to go through with this violation, they will be in the wrong and will cause a grievance. So its up to us, as the free civilization, to stand up and be a voice for those who cannot speak. To Redress the Government for this grievance they want to cause. How can our Government expect us to have faith in them and trust them if they feel like violation Amendments rights just because they don’t like something or just because they feel something is a burden. That Bill of Rights was written by individuals who actually stood for something and cared about every individuals well being and that is not something the Government can just relinquish or change. Hopefully they will never be in this predicament, for they too will one day need their rights and just maybe they won’t have them because they fell into their own pit of injustice. 

  • Dohau5

    Seems like thy want to take anything and everything away from everyone. All people have the right to communicate. I’v3e really enjoyed writing to some of these people and  hoping to be a postive influence.

  • Pingback: Is It a First Amendment Violation When A Prison Limits Inmates’ Ability to Solicit Pen-Pals? An Eleventh Circuit Decision Wrongly Says No | WELCOME TO MY WORLD OF MANY CAUSES | Scoop.it

  • Nadia

    My Name is Nadia , im 22 years old, and im only writting females from my age. I am straight and got boyfriend too. I was looking only for friendship, and from the start i took my time to read the advices and rules from writeaprisoner.com . 
    The idea of helping someone to contact with the outside world, to have a pen pal , someone we all as a society can encourage to study, to get a job… and be part of the sistem and not doing wrong… just made me happy. I am not saying that as a society we need to forgive and forget, because thats much complex, im only saying we need to help this people to be part of our society and do well , wich is much more simple.
    What can i say ? i miss my pen pals … i am worried because the letters dont arrive … i was planning to travel to the united states to meet them , they have told me that they only have 1 or 2 vistis per year…. i think with this as a society if your people decide to end with this sistem to help them, things are only going to be worse, just because inmates some day , most of them , are going to be out of jail.

  • Nadia

    My Name is Nadia , im 22 years old, and im only writting females from my age. I am straight and got boyfriend too. I was looking only for friendship, and from the start i took my time to read the advices and rules from writeaprisoner.com . 
    The idea of helping someone to contact with the outside world, to have a pen pal , someone we all as a society can encourage to study, to get a job… and be part of the sistem and not doing wrong… just made me happy. I am not saying that as a society we need to forgive and forget, because thats much complex, im only saying we need to help this people to be part of our society and do well , wich is much more simple.
    What can i say ? i miss my pen pals … i am worried because the letters dont arrive … i was planning to travel to the united states to meet them , they have told me that they only have 1 or 2 vistis per year…. i think with this as a society if your people decide to end with this sistem to help them, things are only going to be worse, just because inmates some day , most of them , are going to be out of jail.

  • Aaron Armstrong

    It is never ok to infringe on the first amendment. Ever. 

  • Aaron Armstrong

    It is never ok to infringe on the first amendment. Ever. 

  • Brewerdest0305

    I write several prisoners around the united states, and not ONE of them has tried to get money out of me, or solicite me for anything… I enjoy writing to them because I know they’re not going to judge me, or anything like that. The government should look at it this way, the prisoners could sit in their cells all day and possibly cause trouble. Or write someone and stay out of trouble.. I think it’s qrong to take away their rights to write people on the outs. Don’t take that away from them! It would be selfish and wrong.

  • Brewerdest0305

    I write several prisoners around the united states, and not ONE of them has tried to get money out of me, or solicite me for anything… I enjoy writing to them because I know they’re not going to judge me, or anything like that. The government should look at it this way, the prisoners could sit in their cells all day and possibly cause trouble. Or write someone and stay out of trouble.. I think it’s qrong to take away their rights to write people on the outs. Don’t take that away from them! It would be selfish and wrong.

  • Lil-C

    This is ridiculous! I am writing pp in prisons and I never had a bad experience! I love writing to them and they are good people who just made some bad decisions in the past. Makes no sense to forbid them having pen pals.

  • Lil-C

    This is ridiculous! I am writing pp in prisons and I never had a bad experience! I love writing to them and they are good people who just made some bad decisions in the past. Makes no sense to forbid them having pen pals.

  • Tosha

    Please dont take away WAP, for some of these inmates thats all they have are their pen pals, as family and friends have turned their back on them. I have written many inmates, friendships only, and I myself  have benefited from them, and I know its been much appreciated that I write to them, so its a win win situation. I have been their friend ONLY, no romance involved, I’m also a very normal, intelligent woman, a mother, hard worker,etc..Besides, you would be taking away MY rights as well. I see no point in taking this away. 

  • Tosha

    Please dont take away WAP, for some of these inmates thats all they have are their pen pals, as family and friends have turned their back on them. I have written many inmates, friendships only, and I myself  have benefited from them, and I know its been much appreciated that I write to them, so its a win win situation. I have been their friend ONLY, no romance involved, I’m also a very normal, intelligent woman, a mother, hard worker,etc..Besides, you would be taking away MY rights as well. I see no point in taking this away. 

  • Penny Coursey-Crawford

     Many are locked away for things they’ve done, many are locked away fr things they haven’t done. Who are we to judge them for their past crimes? Personally, for me being a pen-pal with an inmate has actually been a HUGE plus for us both. We learn so much from one another every time we speak and it’s an absolute joy! He’s never asked me for anything but honesty and friendship and that’s what we have – a solid friendship. I’m very thankful for knowing him. I don’t look at it as a “privilege” for the inmate, it’s a privilege for me. There may be some out there that solicit for money, goods and so forth, but when “soliciting” for friendship, they should NOT be punished. Even though there are some that ask for money or goods – it’s up the corespondent to make that choice to supply the inmate. Let’s not forget that these inmates are indeed people with names, personalities, hearts, spirits, thoughts, etc. If a line is crossed, punish that person – not the everyone. Point blank, that’s just wrong. The government really needs to take a huge step back from telling us how to run our personal life and making our personal choices. And now I ask you this, if you had family or friends as inmates, would you still feel the same way? If so, I’m glad you’re not my family or friend and I will definitely pray for you.

  • Penny Coursey-Crawford

     Many are locked away for things they’ve done, many are locked away fr things they haven’t done. Who are we to judge them for their past crimes? Personally, for me being a pen-pal with an inmate has actually been a HUGE plus for us both. We learn so much from one another every time we speak and it’s an absolute joy! He’s never asked me for anything but honesty and friendship and that’s what we have – a solid friendship. I’m very thankful for knowing him. I don’t look at it as a “privilege” for the inmate, it’s a privilege for me. There may be some out there that solicit for money, goods and so forth, but when “soliciting” for friendship, they should NOT be punished. Even though there are some that ask for money or goods – it’s up the corespondent to make that choice to supply the inmate. Let’s not forget that these inmates are indeed people with names, personalities, hearts, spirits, thoughts, etc. If a line is crossed, punish that person – not the everyone. Point blank, that’s just wrong. The government really needs to take a huge step back from telling us how to run our personal life and making our personal choices. And now I ask you this, if you had family or friends as inmates, would you still feel the same way? If so, I’m glad you’re not my family or friend and I will definitely pray for you.

  • Arix

    Message flagged
    Tuesday, March 13, 2012 6:38 PM
    I was used by one inmate in Oregon- his name is Matthew Haney SID # 12166069. He placed an add on your site & a couple other-he played me told me he loved me & that he would do anything for us to be together- he is to be realeased in less than 90 days & has completely changed his plans- in the mean time he managed to get 3,000.00$ from me & I feel like shit! I not only had my bank account broken, but my heart. If you guys continue to have these sites up for convicts then you should have a better process & investigate the inmates to make sure that they dont get away with this crime. You should at least provide a link or page where people such as my self can post Matt & shame him so that is not able to hurt another innocent person out of thousands of dollars. I’m willing to bet you that he will shortly be posting him self again now that he has gotten me for a large chunck of money- since i stood up & confronted him – he flipped the script & dropped me like a hot potato- Your site should help the people & not  the convicted criminals.  I was used by one inmate in Oregon- his name is Matthew Haney SID # 12166069. He placed an add on your site & a couple other-he played me told me he loved me & that he would do anything for us to be together- he is to be realeased in less than 90 days & has completely changed his plans- in the mean time he managed to get 3,000.00$ from me & I feel like shit! I not only had my bank account broken, but my heart. If you guys continue to have these sites up for convicts then you should have a better process & investigate the inmates to make sure that they dont get away with this crime. You should at least provide a link or page where people such as my self can post Matt & shame him so that is not able to hurt another innocent person out of thousands of dollars. I’m willing to bet you that he will shortly be posting him self again now that he has gotten me for a large chunck of money- since i stood up & confronted him – he flipped the script & dropped me like a hot potato- Your site should help the people & not  the convicted criminals.   

  • Rev Mike

    The actions of all involved in stifling these people is a tragedy.
    Why do people have to be so hateful, and have such Mal content for the people incarcerated in our nations prisons?

    Sure, they did violate the law, BUT,  the people responsible for doing this are violating what few rights these men & women have, and, just because they are who they are, does this give them the right to take away everything from the inmates, such as outside contact?

    I love people regardless of their actions, their crimes etc, to be hateful to these people, would be completely disrespectful, and going against the word of God.

    “Let the ones who has not sinned cast the first stone”. Read it, it is in the bible.

    I hope that these people can see their way to rescind their actions. 

    Have a wonderful evening.

  • Ellerie

    No! It isn’t a violation.. 
    Just keeping the faith and praying everyday for their rights.. 
    It’s plain wrong to just take take and take some more.. 

 

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