The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire (ACLU-NH) and the law firm Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson, P.A. filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a prisoner’s mother and three-year-old son challenging the constitutionality of a mail policy imposed by the New Hampshire Department of Corrections (NHDOC) that prohibits prisoners from receiving greeting cards, picture postcards, and original drawings in the mail. This policy violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
During the fall of 2015, the prisoner’s mother (Y.F.) mailed her son a Thanksgiving card that also contained drawings by the prisoner’s son (C.F.). The card contained the text “I [LOVE] U DADDY” handwritten by C.F. The prison returned the card and drawings, apparently because they violated the mail policy in place since May 1 of this year.
With this sweeping policy, the state has eliminated one of the few ways young children can communicate with parents who are in prison. This is not only cruel, but also counterproductive for New Hampshire’s over 2,800 prisoners and their families waiting for them to come home. Maintaining family bonds is critical for prisoners to successfully reintegrate into society upon release.
The policy applies to all original “drawings” and “pictures,” all “greeting cards,” and all “postcards from particular locations or featuring any type of printed design, picture, or depiction.” The ban includes Christmas cards, as well as prayer cards with pre-printed images often sent to individual prisoners by religious organizations.
Cooperating Attorney: Edward Sackman from Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson, P.A.
Legal Documents: Second Amended Complaint