Prison mail policy raises concern
DES MOINES — The Iowa Department of Corrections has begun photocopying all legal mail sent to inmates, due to concerns the originals could be infused with drugs. Mail has been found that’s been soaked in the synthetic drug K-2, and the inmates then smoke the papers.
University of St. Thomas law professor Gregory Sisk says he has never encountered a policy like Iowa’s. “In general, the states’ correctional systems have been very protective of legal mail and recognize that the right to confidentiality in correspondence between a prisoner and a prisoner’s lawyer is to be protected,” Sisk says. “The Ninth Circuit has described this right as nearly sacrosanct.”
He says the policy threatens prisoners’ rights to confidential correspondence with their attorneys. “Setting up a system like this in which confidentiality could be severely compromised puts lawyers in the position where they may not be able to continue representation,” Sisk says.
An attorney within the State Public Defender’s Office has called on the DOC to rescind the policy, which the lawyer argues prevents them from fulfilling their ethical duties.