Circuit Court upholds ban on pen-pal solicitation by inmates

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The First Amendment rights of Indiana inmates aren’t being violated by a ban instituted by the Department of Correction on advertising for pen-pals and receiving materials from resources that allow people to advertise for pen-pals, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held Tuesday.

Inmates Dana Woods and Ernest Tope filed the class-action suit against the DOC after an internal investigation into financial fraud and pen-pals led the DOC to limit the source of trust account funds to inmates’ family members and other authorized individuals. The DOC also prohibited inmates from soliciting or commercially advertising for money and goods or services, which includes a ban on advertising for pen-pals.

The inmates challenged the constitutionality of the ban on advertising for pen-pals, in which Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson in the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Indiana granted summary judgment to the DOC.

Using the four factors outlined in Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987), which discussed when regulations impinging on inmates’ constitutional rights are valid, the 7th Circuit upheld the ban. Under Turner, there must be a “valid, rational connection” between the regulation and the objective set forth to justify it; the inmates need to have an alternative means of exercising the restricted right; the impact of accommodating the asserted right on prison staff, other inmates, and prison resources generally must be considered; and the regulation must not be an “exaggerated response” that ignores an alternative which would accommodate the inmates’ First Amendment rights at a modest cost to legitimate penological interests.

In this case, Dana Woods, et al. v. Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Corrections, No. 10-3339, the inmates were unable to disprove the validity of the regulation on any of the four factors.

“We close by noting that constitutional rights are not eradicated by one’s incarceration; the liberties enjoyed by the citizenry at large remain available to incarcerated individuals except to the extent that the exercise of such liberties is at odds with the objectives and administration of an effective prison system. Using pen-pal websites to engage in fraud is antithetical to the rehabilitative goals of confinement,” wrote Judge William Bauer. “Here, the IDOC reasonably perceived that continuing to allow inmates to use the sites would passively enable fraud. The regulation enacted to prevent it squarely addressed the threat and is therefore constitutional.”


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  2. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.

  3. (A)ll (C)riminals (L)ove (U)s is up to their old, "If it's honorable and pro-American, we're against it," nonsense. I'm not a big Pence fan but at least he's showing his patriotism which is something the left won't do.

  4. While if true this auto dealer should be held liable, where was the BMV in all of this? How is it that the dealer was able to get "clean" titles to these vehicles in order to sell them to unsuspecting consumers?

  5. He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless [ ] Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. GOD BLESS THE GOVERNORS RESISTING! Count on the gutless judiciary to tie our children down and facilitate the swords being drawn across their throats. Wake Up America ...