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Department of Corrections announces state-run prisons will no longer accept inmates' personal mail

New Mexico Department of Corrections

In a press release sent out on December 29, the New Mexico Department of Corrections announced that all state-run prison facilities will no longer be accepting inmates’ personal mail.

Beginning February 1st, all personal mail for inmates at these state-run prisons will be addressed to a single address where they will be “processed”. The address to which the mail will be sent is located in Tampa, Florida, PO Box 33622.

The only two exceptions to this new policy are Lea County Correctional Facility and Otero County Prison Facility. These are two privately operated facilities. 

The release goes on to say that all mail must be properly addressed with the proper identification information. That includes the inmate’s name and NMCD #. Failure to do so will result in the mail being returned to the sender.

Cash and personal checks will also not be accepted through the mail. A package containing money or check will also be returned to the sender unopened. 

Privileged or legal mail must be sent from the following people in order to be accepted. Licensed attorneys, judges, and clerks at either the federal, state, or local court

As far as a legal precedent is concerned, the First Amendment creates a minimum level of protection for an inmate’s right to communicate with the outside world.

As far as restrictions on incoming mail, according to the ACLU’s Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual, “restrictions on incoming mail are valid if they are reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. 

A penological interest is the interest of the prison system in relation to the management of the prisoners, such as maintaining security or rehabilitation.

The following are four factors that must be taken into consideration when determining whether a limitation on incoming mail meets this standard. 

(1) the rational connection between the mail restriction and the prison’s penological interest

(2) alternatives available to prisoners to exercise their rights

(3) the burden of accommodating rights 

(4) the lack of alternatives available to prisons in satisfying their interests.

The New Mexico Department of Corrections gave no reason for what prompted the sudden change in mailing policy.