Updated: Apr 5
Last year I began a written exchange with WCC staff regarding changes to the photograph/mail policy at the facility.
In short, the facility adopted a new procedure based on a "recommendation by someone in the administration" wherein all photos would have to be purchased and mailed directly from one of three vendors (shutterfly, pigeonly and free prints), rather than being mailed directly by family and friends. This seemed to be a kneejerk response to an incident at one of the facilities wherein someone attempted to introduce contraband by altering photographs. An attempt that failed due to the keen eye of mailroom staff I might add. (Kudos staff!)
This change in policy inadvertently put undue and unnecessary added financial burden on family and friends, not to mention prevented a number of individuals who do not have the capacity to order photographs from these vendors because it requires the use of digital technology not everyone has access to.
In response to this change, I sought a definitive response from the Department of Corrections Administration as to what the actual photograph/mail policy is regarding the mailing of photographs to incarcerated persons in the State of Alaska through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Today I finally received the following information from the Department's Public Information Officer, Betsy Holley. (Thanks Betsy!) *Note, if you want any information at all from DOC, it must be done via a FOIA request or you will continue to receive crickets as a response. I learned that the hard way.
As you can see, nowhere in the Alaska Department of Corrections Policy and Procedure does it state photographs must be sent directly from a vendor, nor does it state it must come from a particular vendor either. In fact, it does not even say it is against policy to print photographs from one's own printer. It merely speaks to the altering of photographs and obscene nudity as restrictions.
I realize the need for security when it comes to the possible introduction of contraband via mail, or in this case photographs, but in this situation, staff did their due diligence and prevented it from reaching its intended recipient. Why punish an entire class of people for a singular incident? Punish the asshat on the receiving end of that tainted mail and let everyone else continue to enjoy their right to monitored but reasonable communication between themselves and their incarcerated loved ones.
I am truly hoping staff at WCC will reconsider the changes to photograph/mail policy and return to the previous practice of allowing family members to send in photographs with their letters as long as the photographs adhere to the criteria outlined with the DOC's Policy and Procedures.
For those who do not have to endure these seemingly innocuous policies, this issue may seem petty and insignificant, but to families already overburdened by the impact of incarceration, it matters.