Federal Judge Orders Halt to IDOC Mail Policy

IDOC inmates and supporters are familiar with the notorious "mail ban" instituted last year limiting all incoming correspondence to white lined paper in a white envelope. A torrent of protest and grievance was received by Deputy Commissioner James Basinger who was left to defend his policy on the shaky grounds of limiting narcotics trafficking. Now, a civil suit brought by the Indiana ACLU and two inmates at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility has significantly challenged the IDOC's ability to enforce the ban.

Judge William T. Lawrence of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has ordered that the IDOC's policy cannot be enforced for the duration of the litigation. The argument came from Mr. Ken Falk of the ACLU who claimed the policy violated inmates First Amendment Rights and served no "legitimate penological function" that could not be achieved with less burdensome means.

The injunction which will take effect 30 days following the September 24th ruling will allow outside supporters to send greeting cards, articles, and other similarly banned materials while the suit is still in the courts.

It should be noted that this injunction does not mean that the IDOC will not ultimately prevail and be permitted to reinstate the policy. However, the granting of Mr. Falk's motion is indicative of Judge Lawrence's opinion on the merits of the ACLU's case, as it is the burden of the petitioner to establish a reasonable likelihood that they will prevail in order to be granted an injunction.

Supporters should remain vigilant in opposing the policy and raising awareness of its negative effects to advocates of First Amendment rights and anti-censorship activists.

IDOC Watch