No expectation of privacy in jail

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BY MIKE CETERA

Defense attorneys aren't likely to garner any sympathy over cries that cops are reading their clients' mail. But Kathleen Colton's objection during the first cold-case murder trial about revelations the Kane County Jail has been opening mail for years raises some interesting questions.

Is it legal for jail guards to pilfer inmates' letters? Is there an expectation of privacy among inmates? Should law-abiding citizens care either way?

Here's what Colton had to say about her client, Jose Salinas: "I don't know how much more obvious this could be that this violates Mr. Salinas' rights. You don't give up your rights when you're incarcerated."

Here's what Kane County Sheriff's Office Lt. Pat Gengler said: "By virtue of being in custody they give up certain things. If they don't want to have their phone calls listened to, their mail opened, their visits monitored, they should make a different choice in life."

From what I could find, opening inmates' mail is a fairly common and apparently accepted practice throughout the U.S. But that doesn't mean it's not controversial. I'm not sure how far Colton can or will take this, but here's what's important for all of us to remember: all of our freedoms can become endangered when constitutional rights for some are whittled away, particularly when people don't have a chance to debate actions taken by the government to take away those rights.

Find some links on the issue below:

* The American Law and Legal Information Web site raises some interesting points about what does and does not constitute a violation of prisoners constitutional rights:

Common sense would seem to dictate that prisoners should have fewer rights than people on the outside; otherwise prison would not be prison. Lack of freedom of movement, for instance, is a defining factor of prison. Likewise prisoners forfeit certain civil rights, such as the right to vote; a number of property rights (e.g. the warden might prevent a prisoner from receiving a gift of a gold watch for fear that his wearing the watch might encourage theft); the right to privacy with regards to his mail (though unreasonable censorship or restriction is unconstitutional); free speech (e.g., the prisoner cannot call for protests against the prison administration); and other rights. (emphasis added)

* In Colorado Springs, Colo., two employees sort through incoming mail "opening envelopes to check for contraband and removing the glue and stamp, (El Paso County Sheriff Terry) Maketa said. Letters also can be read if there are security concerns."

* The city of Santa Ana, Calif., posts its inmate mail policy online: "All mail is subject to search. Inmate non-legal mail will be scanned prior to delivery."

* In Sante Fe County, New Mexico, "every single piece of mail is searched, except those from the inmates' lawyers," according to the Albuquerque Journal . The searches are conducted, in part, to combat drug smuggling into the jail.

* The Witchita (Kansas) Eagle wrote a story earlier this year about what prison guards routinely find in inmates' mail:

The prison staffers who check inmate's mail are sometimes overcome by the smell of perfume. "Some people get carried away with spraying their letters," said Capt. Dale Call, public information officer for the El Dorado Correctional Facility, where Rader and Carr are inmates.

Prison mail checks also turn up pornography, drugs and even plans for making weapons, Call said. "We don't allow Polaroid pictures, because they can make an incision in the back and insert contraband."

Most of the time, such photos are intercepted in the mail room and confiscated.

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7 Comments

Why should you not is the real question? He had something to hide. He was trying to get his ex-girlfriend to commit perjury. It's things like this that prove under no circumstances should any prisioner be aloud privacy except with his attorney!!!!!

He was not trying to get his Ex girlfriend to do anything. I know that for a fact!!! To all those people out there You DO NOT know Jose He would not do something like that I think that is wrong for reading mail from any inmate. What happen to privacy between a person and thier loved ones. I think our system is Corupt and they go around looking for "sources" to get info as to whats going down on the streets. Inmates should get some kinda privacy with thier loved ones

If mail is going to be opened and read by prison officials, fine--but don't keep it a secret that that's the policy! People shouldn't be expected to guess whether or not their correspondence will remain private. Of course a defense attorney will object if her client had no idea his mail was being read; in this country we expect to be informed about laws & legal procedures. That's why we're so fastidious about reading suspects their "Miranda rights"--we want to be absolutely sure to dot every "i" and cross every "t"!

Since you know some much why was it in one of the letter he wrote to his ex-girlfriend they even have a taped recorded conversation. I know you don't know any better love is blind.

I believe that once you are placed in jail, you lose all privacy rights and besides what are you hiding if you did not do it. Be a man now instead of punk and hide behind your lawyer, truly show who you are and let them do what they need to do, if you did nothing wrong.

You should be thankful that, that was all that was told about this POOR INNOCENT MAN!!! I'm sure that was alot more that could have been said, but I think that he has enough time for now.

Those of you who keep bashing This man. should just stop already and he is not hiding behind his lawyer im sure you would be too if you got convicted of a crime you didnt commit. He is doing everything the legal way and he should let his lawyer handle this since there is nothing much he can do from behind bars. I hope he wins that appeal and he is set free so that everyone including his ex girlfried could put a sock in it and I hope they catch the real KILLER

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This page contains a single entry by Beacon Blog published on September 11, 2007 8:26 AM.

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