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ACLU sues Kentucky Corrections Department over inmate mail

October 26, 2021 GMT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and the Department of Public Advocacy have filed a lawsuit alleging some state prisons are violating the rights of inmates who receive legal mail from their attorneys.

State prisons are confiscating incoming legal mail and only giving photocopies of the mail to inmates, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Franklin County. The lawsuit said the copies are often not complete and the original mail is not kept confidential.

“There is no evidence any contraband has ever been delivered via legal mail, so these changes are unnecessary and unduly onerous,” the ACLU said in a media release Tuesday.

The Department of Corrections never formally changed its policy, but some facilities began the new practice last year to screen for incoming contraband, the lawsuit said.

Kentucky Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lamb said Tuesday in an email that the department’s current mail handling method “does not violate any rights.”

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The department “has a responsibility to ensure contraband is kept out of all the prisons for the safety of the inmates and staff,” Lamb said.

The state’s policy for 50 years was to open legal mail in the presence of the inmate to inspect it for contraband, the lawsuit said. The ACLU said the current practice going on at some prisons violates the inmates’ constitutional rights.

The groups are asking the court to halt the practice of copying the mail. The lawsuit names the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and several state prison wardens.