Last fall, after officers made unsubstantiated claims of illness through contact with prisoner mail, the PA DOC enacted an onerous mail policy that has severely limited prisoners’ ability to communicate with and learn about the outside world. The new policy prohibits letters, photos, cards and all publications from being sent directly to prisoners in Pennsylvania. Newspapers were excepted, but the PA DOC has yet to settle on a definition of newspaper.
After prisoners and their allies protested this new policy and its adverse effects on sustaining meaningful relationships with family and friends, as well as prisoners’ ability to learn, grow and transform themselves through outside educational, spiritual and political materials, the PA DOC announced some changes. These new policies were attempts to pacify prisoners , their families and supporters. In reality, nothing changed. Not for the better.
Our mail, which is routed to a company in Florida at the cost of $4 million a year, comes late, if at all. We don’t receive the originals; we get copies. Often, we receive other prisoners’ mail. If mail is rejected, we are not notified. Books, if they come at all, arrive months after being delivered to the PA Security Processing Center, a new facility the PA DOC built to scan publications then ship the to prisoners. Even when Amazon confirms delivery in two days, prisoners still don’t receive the book until 4-8 weeks later, if at all.
Our network has been waiting for THREE MONTHS for a package of zines from True Leap Press. They must have fallen into the PA DOC blackhole because no one in the PA DOC knows anything. These policies have severely hindered prisoners’ efforts to connect with the outside world, learn and grow. Our ability to transform continues to be stymied by this policy.