What You Need to Know About Prison Communication
Prison communication is not the same as communicating with your friends and family on the outside. When I communicate with friends and family I use email, text, social media, or just pick up the phone whenever I want to talk to someone or leave a message. Unfortunately because of the needed security in prison, we are forced to writing letters or receiving collect calls when communicating with our loved ones in prison.
There are some facilities that allow you to send email, but your loved one will not typically have access to a computer to read it. The facility receives the email via a local computer and a guard or other official will review the email, and if acceptable, print it and have it delivered to the inmate.
Communication Options Behind Bars
This article from the Prison Policy Initiative discusses the different types of prison communication that are currently being used and types that are being evaluated. It also provides further details on how prison communication works.
As with most aspects of life, communications options for incarcerated people are in flux due to technological changes. For practical, political, and technical reasons, communications methods have evolved more slowly in prison than in the outside world, but change is nonetheless here. New technologies such as video visitation and electronic messaging have the potential to improve quality of life for incarcerated people and help correctional administrators effectively run secure facilities. Yet the promise of these new services is often tempered by a relentless focus on turning incarcerated people and their families into revenue streams for both private and public coffers.
The lucrative market for prison-based telephone service has received substantial attention since 2012, when the Federal Communications Commission reinvigorated a long-stagnant regulatory proceeding concerning rates and business practices in the ICS market. Although the focus of the FCC proceeding has thus far been on telephone service, ICS is not just limited to voice calls — there are emerging technologies with which a growing number of prisons and jails are experimenting.
Read the entire article in Prison Policy Initiative: You’ve Got Mail
Writing Letters Is Still Alive in Prison Communication
How often do you receive a letter from someone that is not in prison?
The lost art of letter writing is alive in a place where freedom is not: the prisons.
The letters come to the newspaper handwritten, their envelopes often branded by a stamp: “Mailed from … correctional center.” That stamp seems both a warning and a dismissal, a mix of “consider the source” and “beware the sender.” Not junk mail, but worse, jail mail. But to me, that stamp makes the missives more, not less, compelling.
Someone imprisoned, deprived of their freedom but not their ability to express themselves through writing, has tunneled out with a pen and has come up yearning to be heard.
Yet what strikes me most about letters from inmates is not the big issues, but the small ones. Being in prison is about more than losing your freedom. It is about losing your individuality. You become a number, a code in an inventory of humans, and your rights and even your voice shrink to fit that status. For many, the ability to be heard by and to hear from someone on the outside restores a vital sense of identity and connection to society.
Even though writing to your loved one may be a difficult prison communication and something that you are not used it, it really will mean a lot to your loved one as this article discusses. Read the entire article in The News & Observer: Prison letters reach beyond the walls.
Being someone who has a loved one in prison, or interested in friends and family rights, should be aware of possible breaches in prison communication. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s article: The FCC Should Ensure Digital Rights for Prisoners and Their Families discusses prison communication privacy.
EFF filed comments this week with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is considering new regulations for telecommunications technology in corrections facilities, also known as inmate communication services (ICS). We urge the commission to use its power to ensure that consumers—inmates, their friends, relatives, and legal representatives—benefit from telecommunications services.
EFF made five recommendations to the FCC and you can read about them in The Electronic Frontier Foundation.