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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mississippi State Penitentiary - Rules and Restrictions for Mail

Corresponding with someone in prison can be slightly frustrating at times, due to all the rules and restrictions placed on incoming and outgoing mail. Is there a possibility that some random guard will read your letter that you sent to your friend or loved one in prison? If the prisoner has already received it and it's in their cell, then yes it's a possibility. But between the time you mail it and when it's placed in your loved one's hands, then no- the chances are small.

MSP has their own Postal Inspection Department, headed by Postal Supervisor Linda Weeks. This department is tasked with sorting all the mail coming into the penitentiary, checking it for contraband or items that are "contrary to regulations," and then making sure it's forwarded on to the prisoners. They go through a similar process with the outgoing mail. Not an easy job, for certain.

For the most part, these inspectors do not read incoming letters in their entirety. They will scan through the letter and see if they spot anything suspicious. If they do see something that looks to be a violation, the letter is then forwarded to the Corrections Investigation Division (CID) headed by Mr. John Rogers, the former Deputy Warden of Unit 32. And if CID gets your letter it will be read and it will be copied. So, between when you mail a letter to a prisoner and when they receive it, the most likely people to read your mail are those from the Postal Inspection Department and CID.

Helpful Tip: If you're thinking about writing something to a prisoner that might get you or them in trouble -DON'T. I'm speaking from experience here.

Now to get into specifics of what can and cannot be sent and received, as well as some more tips. . .

  • Make sure that your complete return address (first and last name, street/P.O. box, city, state, zip) is legible and plainly visible on the outside of the envelope. Send a postcard and the same applies. Those writing from international locales usually write the return address on the back, and I've even seen those letters forwarded to the Dead Letter Branch because of this. 
  • Do not send multiple copies of the same photo in whatever form, or they will return them to you. If the prisoner really needs multiple copies of the same photo, there's a fix for this. Mail a copy, wait a day, mail another, etc. I've not seen a limit on how many photos a prisoner can receive at once, but there's a limit on how many they can keep, so be reasonable. Don't send 200 pictures or such all at once. 
  • Do not send any Polaroid photos or any instant photos (the kind that the camera spits out and you can watch develop). 
  • Do not send "photos that depict subjects contrary to regulation." :-P That's bureaucrat-ese for: no nudity or explicit stuff; don't send pictures of guns, dope, folks/people throwing gang signs or participating in gang activity; no pics of nubile females running around scantily clad unless they are 1) at the beach, 2) in or beside a pool. But hey, if you want to send something to your boo to let them know you're thinking of them, be creative. You might get lucky. 
  • Do not send stamps, stamped or prepaid envelopes, pens, pencils, blank paper or envelopes, those musical greeting cards or blank greeting cards. They want the prisoner to buy everything from the prison commissary. Which brings us to. . . 
  • Do not send money in any form directly to a prisoner. If you want to send funds to a prisoner, click here for instructions. Also, do not send money order receipts or copies of receipts. 
  • Do not send more than two (2) sheets of paper per envelope that contain printed information from the Internet. However, both sheets can be printed on, front and back. Also, do not include more than 5 or 6 clippings from the newspaper per envelope. 
  • Do not send books, publications or periodicals directly to a prisoner. These must be sent from a vendor or publisher. For instructions on how to send books, magazines or other periodicals to a prisoner, click here
  • Do not send a copy of a marriage license or birth certificate directly to a prisoner. Marriage licenses must be sent to Chaplain Jim Whisnant, P.O. Box 40, Parchman, MS 38738. Chaplain Whisnant can be reached at (662) 745-6611 ext. 4026 if you have any questions. Birth certificates are to be mailed to Visitors Program, P.O. Box 190, Parchman, MS 38738.
  • Do not send a correspondence course directly to a prisoner or have one sent to a prisoner without making sure the prisoner has first gotten it approved.
  • (UPDATE) Do not send photos of other inmates (As of 7/23/2010).  If the prisoner depicted in the photo is immediate family of the intended recipient, I suggest contacting the Postal Supervisor. 
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1 comment:

  1. Can you send photocopies (on copy paper) of photos instead of sending the actual photos?


About Steven

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Steven Farris is a prisoner who has been incarcerated since a month after his 16th birthday in 1998. Currently serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole, he is seeking to educate the public about the true nature of prison and the widespread and negative effects of the prison industrial complex. Steven has worked with both the National Prison Project of the ACLU, as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in furthering this effort.

You can contact him directly at:
Steven Farris #R5580
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

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