Yesterday I took a look at some of the limitations applied to prisoners sending letters with specific attention on how staff are meant to handle correspondence. Today I’ll focus on the limitations around who a prisoner may send letters to and what they may send out.
One limitation applied to prisoners sending letters is who a prisoner may write to. Prisoners are not generally allowed to have contact with the victim of their offences or the victim’s family unless the victim is a close relative of the prisoner, the victim themselves has initiated contact, or the prisoner is unconvicted. Some prisoners are deemed a risk to children and therefore may not be permitted to have contact with anyone under the age of 13. Officially a prisoner may not write to other prisoners or to ex-prisoners without the permission of the governor unless they are close relatives or co-defendants at trial. However, where permission is sought, it should generally be allowed unless there are reasons to believe it will impede the prisoner’s rehabilitation or compromise security. In fact, any letter at all which the governor deems to be a threat to security (or in the case of juvenile prisoners, considers it to not be in their best interests) may be stopped. Also, if a prisoner wants to write to a pen friend then this is allowed, but if they wish to advertise for one then they must first apply to the governor for permission. One reason that permission may be refused is if the advert invites respondents to write to a box number and, similarly, prisoners themselves are not permitted to write to PO Box numbers unless the private address of the correspondent is not known and the governor is satisfied that security is not threatened, the aim being that censors should be able to log the sender and the recipient of every letter. Indeed, prisoners are not normally allowed to receive anonymous letters and any letter which does not show the sender’s address may be withheld if the governor deems it necessary.
Another limitation is what letters may contain. Any letter which contains grossly offensive messages, threats, information known or believed to be false, anything which could assist or encourage criminality, material which could jeopardise the security of the prison or national security, descriptions of the making of weapons, coded messages, indecent material (as deemed by the Postal Services Act), anything which might place the welfare of a child at risk or create a general threat or risk of violence or physical harm, a request for someone to make a communication on the prisoners behalf which they are not permitted to make themselves, or any financial transaction which is not allowed, may he stopped. The only additional bar is that nothing sent out for publication may contravene the restrictions on access to the media which I went through back in June.
There is also a limitation applied to how many letters may be sent. Letters can be separated into Statutory letters, Privilege letters, and Special letters. Unconvicted prisoners may send two letters per week paid for at the public expense, as many additional privilege letters as they want, paid for by the prisoner themselves, and a special letter paid for at the public expense in exceptional circumstances. Meanwhile, convicted prisoners may send one statutory letter per week, as many privilege letters as they want unless a limit is set due to all letters being read by censors, in which case at least one privilege letter per week must be allowed, and special letters under the same circumstances as unconvicted prisoners. Finally, prisoners may send an extra letter in place of any visit they are entitled to but do not use.
As far as what else can be sent in to prisoners goes, prisoners may receive standard letters subject to all the same limitations as outgoing letters, e-mails if they are in a prison which operates ’email a prisoner’, money which will be added to their prison account on arrival, books (thanks to those campaigners who highlighted Chris Grayling’s total ineptitude), and any other property that the governor of the prison deems suitable. Here at Wakefield that would include diaries, address books, paper, and religious clothing.
And all that is just letters. Tomorrow I’ll take a look at the regulations surrounding telephone communication.