With the threat of legal action, the Leavenworth County Jail likely will change its policy regarding how inmates receive personal mail, the sheriff said.
No lawsuit has been filed against the jail for its policy that restricts incoming mail to postcards. But Sheriff Andy Dedeke his office was among those that have contacted by the American Civil Liberties Union regarding such a policy.
Dedeke said his office was asked to reconsider its policy under threat of possible legal challenge.
Earlier this week, a class action lawsuit was filed against the Wyandotte County sheriff concerning a postcard mail policy used in that county. The suit was filed by attorneys for the ACLU Foundation of Kansas and the Social Justice Law Collective. A news release from the organizations argues the policy at the Wyandotte County Adult Detention Center restricts free speech rights.
Dedeke said the policy at the Leavenworth County Jail requires that personal mail sent to inmates come in the form postcards. He said the jail enacted this policy about 2.5 or three years ago.
He said such a policy was a trend in detention operations.
"It eliminates the possibility of contraband coming in through the mail," he said.
He said it also reduces problems that can result from inmates having access to combustible materials or excessive paper.
Dedeke said inmates can be creative.
"It's amazing what they can do with a little bit of paper and water," he said.
He said inmates can clog ductwork using shreds of paper.
Dedeke said the current postcard policy also saves time in terms of inspection of mail sent to inmates.
He said policy does not apply to mail sent by the inmates to people outside of the Leavenworth County Jail. He said the inmates can purchase notepads, envelopes and stamps through a commissary to use for sending letters. He said the materials are provided to inmates who can't afford to purchase the materials.
Dedeke said the policy also doesn't apply to mail inmates receive from their attorneys or doctors.
The sheriff said his office received a letter from the ACLU Sept. 4 and the matter has been under review. He is scheduled to meet with legal counsel next week. He anticipates a decision will be made at that time regarding the policy.
He said the jail most likely will return to the traditional letter and envelope policy.
Dedeke said he believes there's nothing wrong with the postcard methodology.
"I think we're on good legal standing," he said.
But the sheriff said it's a minor issue and probably not worth the effort of a legal battle. He suggested it may not be in the best interest of the county to spend the money to fight an organization such as the ACLU.