A group of concerned citizens spoke out before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday in protest of a new policy that bans sending full letters to Santa Barbara County jail inmates.
Under the restrictions, which take effect next Monday, inmates’ friends and family will only be able to send inmates postcards, but not photos, drawings or letters. According to Sheriff Bill Brown, the policy change was made because the jail does not have the staff necessary to examine all incoming mail in a timely manner.
Anni Telfer, who spoke out during the public comment portion of the meeting, said the jail’s effort to regulate inmates’ communication rights is misguided.
“The jail administration needs to be working to make things easier for those of who have a loved one in jail, not harder,” Telfer said.
Another speaker, Zach King, echoed her sentiment and said a postcard is not a sufficient means of communication.
“A postcard was too short for real communication. It is not an acceptable substitute for a letter,” King said.
The group has created a Facebook campaign called “Right to Write – Letters” to protest to the new jail policy. With the page, the group hopes to encourage residents to call or write letters to their county supervisors.
According to the campaign, it is sometimes difficult or expensive for family members to talk with the inmates through other means, and a 48-cent letter often allows family members to communicate with inmates in the most flexible way.
Responding to the public comments, Brown said the reason for the policy change was jail safety and staffing levels.
“Because of concerns about health, security, safety and the number of the staff in the office, we decided that inmates could only receive postcards. In the past, our staff found weapons in mail,” Brown said.