Pennsylvania DOC settles suit over legal mail to inmates

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Civil Rights advocates settled its lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Correction this week over the handling of legal mail to inmates, and the changes will be implemented in coming days.

The settlement comes out of a lawsuit filed in October of 2018, after the DOC implemented mail policies to keep contraband out of prisons.

The policy required that all mail sent to the prison be confiscated, scanned and copy sent to the inmate.

“And they would maintain the original in their custody for at least 45 days,” said Alexandra Morgan-Kurtz.

She is a staff attorney at the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Center, one of a number of legal non-profits and plaintiffs who stopped sending mail to inmates fearing violations of lawyer client privilege.

The groups sued and after seven months the DOC agreed it will no longer copy and scan lawyer mail. Instead they’ll use an attorney control number and other measures that do not comprise the privilege.

“There were a very, very small, minuscule number of incidents of fake mail being used to try to introduce drugs into the facility, so these new procedures allow the DOC to verify that the mail is coming from attorneys,” she said.

Last August, the DOC locked down the prisons after officials were sickened. Efforts to crack down on contraband included banning books, overhauling mail and visitation procedures.

In recent months the DOC has rolled back some of the restrictions. Recently, several corrections officers were arrested for trying to smuggle contraband.

The DOC said, in a statement, the new legal mail system will be in place by April 6.

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