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Circuit Court upholds ban on pen-pal solicitation by inmates

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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.”

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  1. "Am I bugging you? I don't mean to bug ya." If what I wrote below is too much social philosophy for Indiana attorneys, just take ten this vacay to watch The Lego Movie with kiddies and sing along where appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etzMjoH0rJw

  2. I've got some free speech to share here about who is at work via the cat's paw of the ACLU stamping out Christian observances.... 2 Thessalonians chap 2: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last."

  3. Did someone not tell people who have access to the Chevy Volts that it has a gas engine and will run just like a normal car? The batteries give the Volt approximately a 40 mile range, but after that the gas engine will propel the vehicle either directly through the transmission like any other car, or gas engine recharges the batteries depending on the conditions.

  4. Catholic, Lutheran, even the Baptists nuzzling the wolf! http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-documents-reveal-obama-hhs-paid-baptist-children-family-services-182129786-four-months-housing-illegal-alien-children/ YET where is the Progressivist outcry? Silent. I wonder why?

  5. Thank you, Honorable Ladies, and thank you, TIL, for this interesting interview. The most interesting question was the last one, which drew the least response. Could it be that NFP stamps are a threat to the very foundation of our common law American legal tradition, a throwback to the continental system that facilitated differing standards of justice? A throwback to Star Chamber’s protection of the landed gentry? If TIL ever again interviews this same panel, I would recommend inviting one known for voicing socio-legal dissent for the masses, maybe Welch, maybe Ogden, maybe our own John Smith? As demographics shift and our social cohesion precipitously drops, a consistent judicial core will become more and more important so that Justice and Equal Protection and Due Process are yet guiding stars. If those stars fall from our collective social horizon (and can they be seen even now through the haze of NFP opinions?) then what glue other than more NFP decisions and TRO’s and executive orders -- all backed by more and more lethally armed praetorians – will prop up our government institutions? And if and when we do arrive at such an end … will any then dare call that tyranny? Or will the cost of such dissent be too high to justify?

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