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From Inside: Objection to FDOC’s move to Eliminate Paper Mail

By Melvin Pérez

This is a sample objection to the Florida Dept. of Corrections’ effort to eliminate paper mail. This is written in response to the proposal to eliminate paper correspondence into institutions under the authority of the Florida Department of Corrections. I object to this proposal, for several reasons, which I will online below:

As an initial matter, the First Amendment of the US Constitution protects the right of prisoners to send and receive mail. In fact, one Federal court held that “prisoners right to free flow of incoming and outgoing mail is protected by First Amendment.” See Davis v. Goord, 320 F.3d 346 (2nd Cir. 2003). As such, the rule would be against the First Amendment. The United States Supreme Court has also ruled that, “prisoners have a First Amendment right to send and receive mail.” See Thornburgh v Abbott, 490 US 401, 407( 1989). Further, the 11th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals has held that, “mail is one medium of free speech, and the right to send and receive mail exist under the First Amendment.”

The First Amendment states that, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.” Equally important, Art. 1 section 4 of the Florida Constitution also provides free speech guarantees: “Every person may speak, write and publish sentiments on all subjects but shall be responsible for the abuse of that right. No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press…” This proposal clearly violates the above provisions.

Also, the FDOC has not shown that the rule is necessary to implement any law. The Department is not at liberty to pass rules just because it wants to. There must be a law to be implemented and a need for the rule. Therefore, this proposal clearly violates the above provisions as well as CH. 120 Florida Statutes.

In another vein, paper mail has an emotional and positive feeling. Any prisoner that has kids can tell you the feeling of receiving a card or drawing written or made by his or her child. Similarly, receiving a card or letter from a family member or friend feels more personal than an email. This could have a positive impact on the overall mental health and attitude of a prisoner. This alone should be sufficient to not eliminate paper mail as the mental state of a prisoner is the most important factor in making a wise decision when confronted with the issues that one faces in daily prison life.

That mental state is what makes the difference between making a decision that can be a positive one or a bad decision that can result in serious injury, death, close management or even death row. When a person in prison has nothing to loss or live for, that card or letter from his or her child, family or friend, might give that prisoner with no hope, their only reason to live. The only hope he or she has. To some prisoners, that receipt of paper mail or that paper card is the thing they look forward to most.

Accordingly, for the reasons explained above, I respectively request that the FDOC does not eliminate paper mail.

Respectfully Submitted, Melvin Perez DC#X11781

Please write to Melvin:
Melvin Perez #X11781
Calhoun Correctional Institution
19562 SE Institution Drive
Blountstown, FL 32424