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Saturday, 12 October 2013

Using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut

TDCJ has outdone itself yet again when imposing new rules on inmate correspondence.

Two things have found their way to me this week relating to the new inmate correspondence rules for TDCJ that come into effect next March.

The first is that apparently, from then on, the only place that friends and family can purchase stationary for inmates will be eComm Direct, the "new" online vendor for TDCJ. I predicted this would happen a few months ago, and now it has. I feel bad for the small businesses around Texas that had previously been approved by TDCJ to supply stationary like the Texas Prison Bookstore and Rosie's Graphics.

The other item is about things you cannot send to an inmate:

11. Contains an altered photo.

"Altered Photo” is an image with content in violation of this policy that has been edited, including, but not limited to, by removing or changing the contents of the image with a computer software program or other means
I don't think they realise how badly worded that statement is - or if they do, then it is a Draconian measure that could lead to the mailrooms denying all photos because they could not be sure if they had been "altered" or not. Altered must surely include cropping a photo, as well as adding text as I often to do the copies of our visit photos that my husband and I get, just to put the date and our names on the front so he can send them on to family and friends.

If they don't want people to send naked photos with stars or other shapes blocking out the naughty bits, then fine, say so. But this will affect a lot of people who innocently just want to tidy up a photo, and perhaps obscure someone's face (like a child) and then send it to the inmate. Equally, the "or other means" at the end would potentially also include cutting a photo with scissors or even writing the inmate's name and number on the back of it. Whoever came up with this new rule obviously has far too much time on their hands!

 image from: Google
It could however, be more insidious than that. It could be that someone in TDCJ thinks that women should not pose naked for photographs - even if the crucial bits are obscured - even if they are sending them to their husbands. It could be that TDCJ are trying to change the behaviour of people who are otherwise outside its control. Or it could just be that someone has put a CO's wife's head on the body of someone else in a compromising position and caused a major fight somewhere.

But the most useful piece of information they could have included is not there at all - what exactly constitutes a "package" as far as TDCJ is concerned?