Inmates Speak

These shorter letters from the women’s jail illustrate some of the practical concerns that people have when it comes to communication through postcards.  

With my father being the age of 84 years old, it is difficult for him to write small enough for a postcard, therefore I can not receive mail due to the postcard rule.

I have a husband who is on dialysis with severe diabetes which caused him to go legally blind.  So when he writes me he writes me with big letters so he could see what he is writing me and so he is spending extra money to purchase multiple postcards when he should be able to send it all on paper and put in one envelope.

It is extremely difficult to receive important resource info that my mom could print off the internet, due to the slow response time of SBCJ’s inmate services.

I am still trying to fight a case, keep my home and employment, and it is really difficult to do so strictly with postcards.

I can’t properly parent my 12-year old when she can’t send me school updates, progress reports, and other news updates.  Being away from her, fighting a criminal and civil case and working with inmate labor crews for FREE is bad enough.

This letter from a man at SB County Jail says pretty much everything that needs to be said about conditions in the jail – it’s a great introduction to the problems of the jail if you’re not familiar with how things are in there.  

To whom it may concern,

my name is [redacted until we have permission from the author] I have been incarcerated for the past 20 months in Santa Barbara County Jail.  I’m 20 years old and I’m fighting for a good chunk of my life.  The reason for my letter is to hopefully get help to make a change in this county jail.  Now I know a lot of people are against helping inmates because to most people we’re overlooked as criminals.  But we are still humans who should be treated like it.  Yes we’re in jail, and if we want to get what we’re asking for then we should stay out of this place…I understand that but not all of us have committed a crime, we might be getting charged but doesn’t mean we’re guilty, I thought we were innocent until proven otherwise? Right? There are still a lot of inmates in here who are really good people, just made a wrong decision, so why are we being treated like animals? I would like to respectfully ask for someone to help us get better food and a bigger portion, from my knowledge people have visited the jail to see what the food tastes like and what the portions look like.  Now I know how crooked the county is and I can almost bet anything that when the county was told that there was going to be someone checking out the food they cooked the best meal they got and gave them two times the portion we get.  The breakfast we get won’t even get a toddler full, the juvenile hall in Santa Maria gets better food that we do.  A breakfast here an 8oz cup full of cereal, a carrot/peanut butter bar and either 2 hardboiled eggs or a bisquit.  On top of that it is given to us at 3:00 am.  For lunch we get 2 sandwiches, 2 cookies and 2 carrot sticks, and that is given to us at 8:00 a.  Now for dinner there isn’t too many choices but more than breakfast or lunch.  Its soy 4 or 5 times a week and a patty or 2 weenies with sweet or refried beans, 2 breads or a biscuit or cornbread, veggies, a juice packet and twice a week we get a piece of cake or 2 cookies.  Some time we’ll eat the same dinner two nights in a row.  I think it’s ridiculous! I hope we could make some change or at least get the food we used to get before the new contract they signed in August of 2012 with Aramark. And if you or your loved ones aren’t blessed with $$ to make commissary each week then you are going to sleep hungry.  Oh, and commissary, that’s another problem.  The prices are ridiculous.  I’m not going to write the whole list but here’s one example.  Top Ramen noodles 10-20 cents on the street, 24 for 4.00$.  In here it’s 1.17$ for 1 and 28.08$ for 24.  So based on those prices just imagine what prices are for other items in here.  Keep in mind there’s inmates fighting cases for up to 3-4 years in here and now if your charges aren’t violent your prison sentences in here [can be up to] 23 years.  Thats just wrong if they want prison terms done here then we should get treated better, food, hygiene, clothes, visits, all that.  Last but not least, another problem is the postcard-only policy – no letters! Its just getting out of hand.  Now I don’t know what they’re thinking but just cause we’re in jail doesn’t mean we don’t have family and friends who love and who worry about us.  A lot of us have wives/husbands, children, parents who keep in contact only through letters. My son loves to send me drawings, report cards from school, certificates, pictures, lyrics, things that make him happy. Now my mom has to tell him “Daddy can’t get those, you can’t send those.” Some of us have girlfriends/wives and how we stay positive keep each other strong and love is through letters. Now it takes about 10-20 postcards to write back to a letter…and on top of that some COs [correctional officers] are so disrespectful that when they put your cell number [on the postcard] they do it all big right in the middle of what your loved one wrote. Now yes there’s visits and a phone so you can call but not everyone can make it on time or have the $$ to get on the phone.  Don’t forget there are people from all over the county even out of the county in here, their loved ones can’t always make it to visits.  It’s 5$ for 15min local and 10$ for out of the state for 15min.  Not everyone has it like that.  Now there’s so many reasons why we should have letters back but honestly we shouldn’t have even got it taken away.  People someone help us.  Isn’t this America? Let us be treated like it.  Well thank you for your time.

Sincerly,

[redacted]

 

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