Nevada Prisons Find New Ways to Discourage Free Citizens from Communicating With People Locked Away In Concrete Cells

By Tony Black

During the difficult economic times when states are cutting education from our youth, the Nevada prison system seeks new and unsuspecting ways to maintain recidivism.

In recent months of 2010, the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) has implemented a new ‘operational procedure’ (O.P. 750.01; Incoming Mail) authorizing mailroom officers (guards working as pseudo postal employees) to refuse and return mail without notice to the inmate of the arrival of such mail. In some cases, inmates have waited months before learning that a letter from his/her child, spouse, parent or friend was refused and returned. In such a volatile, isolative environment, a letter, a picture or a card may be what settles the heart and mind of an inmate struggling to live a productive lifestyle within the human warehouse. But, despite this obvious circumstance, NDOC invents O.P. 750.01 as if to provoke additional heartache and hardship within the lives of the prisoners it keeps.

It was during 2009 when U.S. District Court Judge Hicks gave NDOC the green light to withhold the delivery of mail to Nevada’s state prisoners. Judge Hicks dismissed a civil complaint submitted by an inmate, concluding that, although frustrating for the inmate and free citizens involved, it would be too much work for mailroom officers to notify a prisoner each time a piece of mail was refused or returned. Hicks also denied the inmate’s declaration of being retaliated against by NDOC employees for filing his lawsuit against the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada which suggests to future inmate-litigants, that the US District Court won’t protect them from retaliation.

Hicks, while concluding that the case must be dismissed, added how there are no controlling cases to govern whether a prison can withhold delivery of mail to an inmate without notification. However, the U.S. Supreme Court made the law clear by requiring prisons to provide notice as a matter of Due Process; Procunier v. Martinez, 94 S Ct.1800, 416 U.S. 396 (1974). The decision of judge Hicks is in: Sikorski v. Whorton, 631 F. Supp 2d 1327 (D. Nev. 2009).

The venue of age old correspondence being carried by the US Postal Service (USPS) is progressively transcending into the digital work of the internet. And, rather than sending a letter through the USPS, an email can be sent. In fact, limited e-mail use is currently operating within the state prisons around the country. In the NDOC system, free citizens are permitted to e-mail inmates through a for-profit corporation known as JPay. For a fee, which in part goes to the NDOC, family, friends and so on can contact the inmate within a day. Hence, the time-consuming reliance upon the USPS and the probability of being refused by NDOC can all be avoided by turning to Jpay…

Several years ago, inmates would receive monetary gifts from their families or friends through checks or money orders that were sent to a designated bank and then placed on the accounts of the inmates. Then, NDOC inserted a new procedure that delayed depositing money into inmate accounts for up to one month. At the same time of this new procedure, NDOC introduced Jpay, boasting how monetary gifts would be transferred to inmate accounts within 72 hours, for a fee; which a portion of goes to the NDOC.

Indeed, Jpay’s email system has expanded to On-line visits in lieu of actual visits in some Florida prisons. Prison systems want the services of corporations like Jpay because, quite simply, privacy rights do not exists; that it’ll be completely legal for governmental agencies to closely inspect and utilize any and all information revealed within the e-mail and online communications. For the prison system, the absence of privacy is like a blessing for possible safety and security ideals. However, the consequence of such absence of privacy will be the limitations if not eliminations of communication between the free citizen and the inmate as such government intrusion goes too far.

For now, NDOC relies upon O.P. 750.01 to refuse and return mail without notice to an inmate. The justification, in most instances, concerns “tape” (Scotch tape, etc) on envelopes of incoming mail; tape that reasonable people use to prevent an unintentional opening of an envelope. “Tape” is also, however, applied by USPS employees when the seal on an envelope is broken and NDOC is aware of this fact. What this means is that NDOC is refusing and returning mail because of “tape” on the envelopes that was applied by the USPS rather than the sender who had complied with the no tape rule.

Imagine a free citizen sending a final letter to an inmate expressing farewell as he or she nears death. Then, as the letter travels via the USPS, the citizen passes away. Also, the USPS applies tape to the envelope while it’s on its way to the inmate. Once arriving at the prison, the letter is refused and returned to the sender who is no longer alive. This terrible situation has, and will continue to occur and can only be described as inhumane.

Recidivism is a national problem for the free citizen and taxpayer as inmates exit prison without the support of loved ones, family or friends to assist them in starting a new life. Such inmates leave prison with nowhere to go then, in many cases, return to crime creating new victims and wasting more taxpayer dollars as they reenter the system. It can only be obvious that to discourage free citizens from communicating with inmates that the prison system is actually strengthening the recidivism rates at state prisons.

O.P. 750.01 is another weapon and systematic method utilized by NDOC that ultimately dehumanizes the men and women it imprisons. Recidivism does indeed offer job security to those who accept employment within the industry of human warehousing so for that, and the tragic selfishness of the few employees, O.P. 750.01 serves its purpose.

The ACLU as well as the USPS has thus far neglected to protect the constitutional rights of free citizens and inmates. There is much more to be discussed regarding this crucial matter.

Please feel at liberty to inquire: