Last April, the Indiana Department of Corrections banned all correspondence to it’s 25,000 prisoners, except that which is handwritten on lined white paper. The official explanation is that this is an attempt to block trafficking of synthetic marijuana which can be applied to paper. But many prisoners and advocates have pointed to a long series of earlier measures targeting correspondence and the mailing of political and religious materials and argue that this is just the latest and most sweeping attempt to isolate prisoners from outside supporters. In particular, prisoners have pointed to the exclusion of Afrocentric and anti-racist materials by mail room censors.
The mail ban policy pushes families, friends, and supporters to use J-Pay, a proprietary pay-only online communications system. Sending emails through J-Pay requires the purchase of expensive digital “stamps,” channeling money to IDOC and its contractors rather than the post office. It is also easier to surveil.
On today’s episode, we share statements from prisoners who’ve been hurt by the mail ban. They reflect on ways that the ban has secluded them from their families, limited their access to reading materials, and pushed them into isolation.