07 Sep 09

Arizona Department of Corrections' Illegal Sabotage of Jon’s Jail Journal

Since my release last December, I have mostly posted correspondence and stories mailed to me from my friends in prison. By steering Jon’s Jail Journal in that direction, I’ve been able to help prisoners communicate with the outside world and experience the pleasure of blogging – which was a real lifeline for me when I was a prisoner.

On Saturday, I received a disturbing email from a family member of one of my prison friends:

I wanted to let you know that *** called me today with a message for you. I guess the prison spoke to all of the guys that write to you and told them they are not allowed to write to you anymore. He thinks it's because they (the prison) don't like what is being said on your blog. It is a free country isn't it? Can they do that? It's ridiculous!

A friend sent me an email quoting a letter received from another prisoner whose correspondence I post:

I was told today that I am not allowed to write to Shaun. I tried to mail him a letter and was told I can't communicate with him. Please let him know. The mail and property officers both said I am not allowed to write to Shaun. I asked for the letter back, and was told that all of my outgoing mail would be opened and inspected. They just better mail it or I'll see them in court.

The Arizona Department of Corrections has prohibited my prison friends from writing to me. This is a blatant attempt to sabotage Jon’s Jail Journal, and a violation of these prisoners’ rights, including free speech.

Shortly before my release, a certain mood came over my prisoner friends, some of who are never getting out. Individually, they said that most prisoners who get released forget about the friends they made inside. They all had stories to tell about promises of help made by such prisoners, promises that were never kept.
I promised each of my prisoner friends that I would never let them down like that. I promised to keep blogging their correspondence and stories, to keep mailing them copies of blogs and your comments, to keep generating them pen pals, and to keep this bridge open between them and the outside world.

To help me keep my promise to them and to combat this violation of their rights, I am seeking your suggestions and assistance. I am one man pitted against the vast resources of the Arizona Department of Corrections. Your ideas are welcome, and if you are in the legal and media professions, I think publicity and legal action would be a good start.

At this crucial moment in time for Jon’s Jail Journal, all I am asking for is your help in ensuring that my prisoner friends do not go forgotten and their voices continue to be heard.

Email comments to writeinside@hotmail.com or post them below


Anonymous said...

Oh wow, you are kidding! Can that seriously really do that?


Anonymous said...

Cant believe that. What a joke!


Anonymous said...

Could it be as simple as asking them to pass their letters to other prisoners, to have them mailed without additional scrutiny?

Anonymous said...


I have to know the reason behind this -- "prison safety" or some shit, I bet. Look, you don't have to shut it down, there's a thing called freedom of speech, ya know. 'sides, what can they do from across the pond? Fuck that shit.

Fight! Fight!


Anonymous said...

I can't believe they're not allowing the prisoners to write to you anymore.


Leslie D. said...

Do they have visitors? Could they sneak the letters out with their visitors? Could you find someone in the area to be a visitor and have all of the prisoners sneak their letters to one prisoner, which would then relay all of the letters to the visitor?

How about finding a different address for them to mail it to, and pick it up there?

This is completely illegal. Its not like you can take it up with the police, either. I am sure you can press charges, but who would want to fund that?

Anonymous said...

Those DoC people really are despicable.


Sue O. (aka Joannie, SS) said...

The thing I don't understand is that most of the letters and stories posted are personal in nature and could happen in any prison. The inmates whose letters, stories and comments are posted here are already well documented, and you have tons of information that could be used and will be used to write more books. What possible purpose could this serve, really? It doesn't make any sense to me. Any mail tampering is extremely troubling to me. Parents, children and loved ones have few other means of communication. Is this a precedent?

Sue from Hull said...

lWhat a bunch of tossers!

Thane Eichenauer said...

To answer the question "Can they seriously really do that?".

A: They have, they can and they will.

To offer a suggestion on what might motivate the ADOC to cease such behavior. I will suggest that encouraging residents in Arizona vote for a Libertarian Party candidate.

Being that Libertarians advocate eliminating imprisonment due to drug offences that would eliminate probably 40% of the inmate population. Liberarians also generally favor restitution over retribution and as such don't find building and operating government prisons to be an effective method of maintaining civility.

This suggestion is self-serving as I am a Libertarian candidate for Congress.

Thane Eichenauer
Libertarian Party candidate for the 1st Congressional District (northern Arizona).

Anonymous said...

Thane, thanks, but AZ already tried to eliminate incarceration for drug offenders with prop 200 ten years ago. I hope I don't need to remind you (although I suspect that I do) that it failed miserably. There were several offenders that just simply didn't want to be on probation and the court was completely unable to follow through on their wishes.

And do I really need to tell you that your little attempt at self promotion does nothing to address the issue here?? Seriously?

Shaun, I'd have someone contact the ACLU. They are all up in Arpaio's undies right now and are looking at corrections in general more closely. I suspect you could get someones ear for a few minutes.

Anonymous said...

DOC be damned!


Jon said...

I have contacted the executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. I am waiting for a response.

Shaun Attwood

Anonymous said...

Do you have backups for the Journal and comments? I know backups are a pain but what if "someone" pulled the plug on the blog?

Anonymous said...

They are not aloud to do that or they can be sued. I am so sick of the system thinking they can make their own rules whenever they want to.


Chris H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon said...

The blog and comments are fully backed up.

Chris H. Word from Xena's family is Xena is OK.

Shaun Attwood

Gerald said...

Some suggestions:

I imagine you have a pretty good handle and some good contacts in media now. Rally them to the cause.

Although it may feel a bit selfish, a book launch for stories that "Arpaio/DoC tried to ban" could get a lot of press as to the inmates plight.

Using this blog, I'm sure you could get people with scanners from many different places to act as post boxes for you. I imagine it's much harder to ban all correspondence.

Why not have them mail their correspondence to you via the ACLU? I'd be interested to see if the DoC think twice about stopping a letter to the ACLU. If they still do, I'd be interested to see what the ACLU might do.

Find out what Arizona DoC's performance benchmarks are and see if you can have an effect on them. For example, its website proudly states that legal actions by inamtes are down. What if they went up because of a whole lot of lawsuits for access to mail services?

Joshua said...

Could you please post a blog letting us, your readers know what we can do to help. I for one am willing to do anything that is worth doing !!

Anonymous said...

In a bizarre way, you may one day thank Arpaio -- or however his name hasspelled. He put you through the hell that has proven to be the inspirationfor your genius.


D said...

I'm eager to hear what the ACLU has to say, I imagine they'll be interested in the situation.
I know it's possible for prisoners in other states to lose mail privileges for various reasons...I'd like to know the specific reason ADOC is citing for banning these fallows from writing to you. Could you call the mailroom at one of the involved units and ask them what reason they have listed?

ghost writer said...

freemdom of speech is dead!

Anonymous said...

This is a difficult one. Having correspondence with the outside world can be a means of hope, especially for those who are interned for life. Vetting can be hard. How far do you go? Communication with the outside world should exist. I hope common sense will prevail.

JJ4EVER said...

To answer Leslie D's question: No, inmates cannot bring mail into the visitation room.