Cancel the new punitive PADOC policies, respect the rights of prisoners and their families
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We are families and friends of incarcerated loved ones, professionals who work closely with people in PA prisons and concerned citizens who care about human rights. On September 5th Department of Corrections Secretary Wetzel and Governor Wolf announced new punitive protocols that will further punish, restrict and control people incarcerated in PA prisons. Governor Wolf and the Department of Corrections want to censor and restrict books, increase surveillance of prisoners mail, violate attorney-client privilege and institute cruel, restrictive visiting room policies which violate the American Disabilities Act. Join us in demanding that Governor Wolf and the PA Department of Corrections cancel these policies immediately and respect the rights of incarcerated people, their families and the people who work with them.
We demand that we be able to order our incarcerated loved ones, friends and clients books from (formerly) approved vendors and that they be able to hold them in their hands. The Pennsylvania DOC's move to E-books and a central marketplace that they control is censorship and a monopoly and we fully reject it.
We demand that our loved ones be able to touch letters that our hands touch too. We reject that our mail should be sent to a private company in Florida, Smart Communication, at taxpayer expense where it will be copied, the originals destroyed and the copies sent on. Furthermore during this process our mail will be scanned into a searchable database to increase already pervasive mailroom surveillance on our communication. If mailroom staff needs to be increased to search for contraband the DOC should do just that. The contract with prison profiteer Smart Communications should be immediately cancelled.
We demand that legal mail not be photocopied. In another protocol confidential legal mail will be opened and photocopied and the photocopies will be passed on to the incarcerated person. This is violation of attorney-client privilege and it will expose legal mail to be read in part if not in whole. It cannot stand.
We demand that vending machines and photos be restored on visits immediately. A new protocol states that vending machines and photos will be restricted for 90 days at which point new policies around these activities will be unveiled. This is unacceptable. People travel far to visit with their incarcerated family members and they deserve some basic decency. They ought to be able to share food and memorialize their time together through taking photos. Furthermore there are many people who are diabetic or have other conditions and cannot spend an 8 hour visit without eating anything. Not only is the the restriction on vending machines cruel it is also a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
We demand that official visitors should not have to wear plastic gloves on visits. A new policy requires that lawyers, paralegals, official visitors from the prison society and others be required to wear plastic gloves on visits. Our people in prison are not contaminated or diseased or otherwise toxic and they should not be treated like quarantined and subhuman specimens. It's notable that they make only professionals wear gloves. They know very well that this policy serves no public health purpose and it is clearly meant to denigrate prisoners and their families.
We demand respect. For too long elected officials have believed they can increase their political capital and their career prospects by punishing us, our incarcerated family members and our clients. Enough is enough. We pledge that we will never stop fighting until we are heard.
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