If you get a Christmas card from an inmate at the El Paso County Jail (and I’m not saying you will), thank the American Civil Liberties Union. Facing the threat of a lawsuit in federal court, the county has suspended a policy that banned inmates from sending letters in envelopes, leaving them no choice other than postcards. “Just in time for the Christmas holiday, prisoners at El Paso County Jail—most of whom are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of any crime—will once again be permitted to send letters in sealed envelopes to their children, family members, friends, and loved ones,” the ACLU of Colorado writes in a media release cited by The Denver Post.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa has agreed to the preliminary injunction filed by the ACLU, telling the Colorado Springs Gazette that “we had already made the decision last week to roll back to our previous policy.” The protocol had been in place since July—ostensibly to save money, since outgoing mail is screened by jail staffers—and did not apply to legal correspondence. But concerns were raised about the postcards’ limited letter-writing space, lack of privacy, and inability to enclose drawings or newspaper clippings. In recent months other jails around the United States have adopted “postcard-only” policies for prisoner mail, but the case in El Paso County is the first in which the prisoners have been represented by counsel throughout the lawsuit, according to the Colorado Springs Independent.