Speak up! Report from the 6/18 County Supervisors Meeting

Thank you to everyone who attended and spoke at the County Board of Supervisors meeting today. Special shout out to the UDW and the In Home Health Service workers in our county, we support your wage increase!

Today, speakers from the Right to Write campaign brought to light the harm already being imposed by the mail ban and called on concerned county residents to stand and speak against the ban. One speaker shared multiple letters from inmates describing the difficulties they face under the mail ban, including the heartbreaking testimony of an inmate whose son, due to health limitations, is unable to write in small writing and so cannot say more than a few words on the allowed post-cards. Another inmate’s writing revealed that the welfare packages recieved by some inmates do not include postcards and so cannot be used to communicate with other incarcerated loved ones.

After public comment, Sheriff Bill Brown pulled aside members of the Right to Write campaign and expressed that he was unaware of some of the hardships imposed by the ban and would work to address those specifically. He was reminded by Right to Write campaigners that his lack of awareness of these hardships is due to the fact that no public feedback was sought and no transparency was excercised in the formation and implementation of the mail ban, which was only revealed to the public through a small posted form in the visiting area of the jail a week before the ban was put in place. How could someone in power be aware of the problems caused by their policies if their policies are kept secret until immediately before they are implemented?

Sheriff Brown also expressed his continued opinion that the ban on letters is necessary to protect the security of inmates from contraband, despite the fact that thousands upon thousands of county jails across the United States have no such ban in place and are adequately able to deal with contraband through traditional mail-search practices.

Notably, when asked if they had any statistics at all about the effectiveness of the mail-ban on reducing contraband in the jail, both Sheriff Brown and the jail commander revealed that they are keeping no statistics and making no effort to ensure that their ban has any positive effect. They use security as a justification, but fail to do even the most basic information gathering to find out if their policy is even successful by their own standards.

The Sheriff also expressed frustration that this issue is continually raised without the campaigners meeting with him for private discussion. Campaigners stated that it is not our job to do the public relations work of the jail; it is not our job to gather data and to schedule public meetings, although it has become something we all have to do in addition to the responsibilities of work, school and family. Despite this, we will continue in our efforts, and look forward to joining members of the public, activist and endorsement organizations and political parties in a public hearing with the Sheriff on the mail ban in the near future.

Thank you for all of your efforts. As always, please share this campaign, and contact your public representatives to express your opposition to the mail ban.

For the Right to Write!

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