SAN JOSE, Calif., June 7 (UPI) -- A plan to allow postcards as the only mail to prisoners at a California jail has drawn tears and outrage from inmates and their families, officials say.
Many of those critical of the proposal by Santa Clara County corrections officials said long letters, not skimpy messages on postcards, had helped turn around the lives of many of those held at the jail, the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News reported Friday.
A former meth dealer said his wife had written letters as long as 10 pages while he was doing time at the Pelican Bay prison.
"I wouldn't be here today except for that," he said, breaking down.
Jail officials say mail from outside is a major source of drugs and other contraband inside the prison.
Undersheriff John Hirokawa had planned to institute the policy this week, but decided to hold the public forum after news of it leaked out. Inmates had been notified of the change, but no signs had been put up in visitor's areas and there was no notice on the prison's website.
Speakers at the 2-hour meeting said letters to inmates were agents of change.
"Inside is a world of insanity,'' said pastor Tony Williams. "The only sanity is letters from parents, spouses and children.''
Civil rights attorneys termed the proposal a "cruel" policy and warned it could lead to more violence.
Opponents said the policy would unfairly punish the 90 percent to 95 of correspondents who don't try to smuggle items into the prison.