This week's letter comes from alert reader Tricia Knoll who makes a good case for not restricting inmate correspondences as several Oregon county jails are considering. Thanks for the letter Tricia. If you're ever in the neighborhood, drop by the Source for your bag of free coffee courtesy of Lone Pine roasters.
Recently The Oregonian had an article about upcoming county jail restrictions on inmates' right to receive mail by restricting mail to postcards. Note that the sidebar on this article mentions that Deschutes County is soon to enact this same restriction.Yesterday's Oregonian editorial says this is a bad idea, quoting Max Williams of the Oregon Department of Corrections among others.
I agree. For seven years I wrote letters with other people from my church to a young man incarcerated for seven years for a stupid and tragic crime he committed during his senior year in high school. It was a commitment of love from his church community to remind him that we also remembered his goodness. When he was released, we had a "welcome back" party and he mentioned how much those many letters and cards meant to him.
I think few people in the county will be aware that the jail administrator's have the authority to restrict this right without public input. Note that Deschutes County lists current inmates by name online - these are real people with real needs serving time for real crimes. I believe the ability to send and receive "real" mail is important.
I am a member of Portland's Human Rights Commission. We have recently sent a letter to the Multnomah County Sheriff commending his decision to NOT restrict inmate mail in this way. I am working with two other counties in the hope that their human rights commissions will look into this issue.
Inmates do not have email at this time. Sometimes family cannot always visit. Correspondence matters. The public - and our press - should weigh in on this issue. "Efficiency" does not always equal "humanity."