Today I received word that mail I have sent into Maine State Prison (MSP) is being thrown away because it is considered solicitation. I called the mail room to ask what I could to do rectify the situation and to let them know I am not a corporation I am an individual. When I spoke to Nancy in the mail room I told her I write to them, they write back, and I run a blog. Similar to (but not exactly) a pen-pal situation. She informed me that prisoners do not have the right to write to people or receive mail from them. Her exact words were, “What makes you think that inmates have that right”? I then said, “So, do you mean to say that inmates do not have the right to write and receive mail from their family and friends? Can I quote you on that”? She said, “No. I have to go open mail now”. I then informed her that I would let the commissioner know her feelings on inmates receiving correspondence. She told me to, “Read the mail rules on the website”.
I hung up with her and made the call to the commissioner’s office. Then I looked up the mail rules (again) to make sure nothing had changed. Section lll. of the Policy 21:12 of the mail rules states, “It is important that their be constructive correspondence between prisoners and their families and others as a means to maintain ties with the community. Each facility shall provide prisoners with the means to engage in such correspondence”.
I called back the prison and got Nancy again and I said, “I did what you said and I just want to read you what I found”. She listened to the first sentence, made a loud sighing sound in my ear, and told me to talk to her co-worker. A man got on the phone and I asked his name but did not catch it…I believe it started with a G. He was very respectful as I explained that I am not trying to break the rules only keep inmates in contact with the community. He let me know how to send mail in the future to be sure they get it and assured me that they will get it if I do it the way he instructed.
My biggest concern here is Nancy. This is a woman working in the prison mail room who does not believe that inmates have the right to get mail! Considering the amount of mail I have received (and who knows what has been censored/shredded) about the MSP mail room, I would say that there are some real issues.
Although this blog is not for my voice, it is for the inmates, I wanted to take this moment to validate the complaints and concerns coming from the incarcerated at MSP regarding the mail room. So often complaints are over looked, considered exaggerations, or just ignored that I felt this one was major enough to warrant a vocal intervention of sorts. MSP has a mail room issue and I believe fully much of it starts with attitude and personal beliefs that are not conducive to that working environment.
I do know that there are some amazing organizations and people who know about this and are working towards a better system. For all of your hard work, which I really hope produces change, thank you.