Joining with other jails around the country, in 2014 the Leon County Jail in Tallahassee adopted a policy that required all incoming mail to inmates to be in postcard form. Family and friends were prohibited from sending letters in envelopes, or enclosing any information like report cards or newspaper articles. Because of the Postcard Only Policy, people like Joseph Reilly could not write letters to his son in jail.
FJI and the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Reilly and a proposed class all correspondents who wish to write to people incarcerated in the Leon County Jail. The lawsuit seeks to have the Policy declared unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment, and also that the Sheriff’s failure to provide proper notice when mail was rejected violated the Due Process Clause. After the lawsuit was filed, the Leon County Sheriff rescinded the Postcard Only Policy, and people detained in the jail can now receive letters in envelopes. Although the Sheriff tried to have the suit dismissed as moot, the case is still alive, as FJI and the ACLU are still seeking a declaration that the Policy was unconstitutional. We have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which is still pending.
The case is Reilly v. Leon County Sheriff, Case No. 4:14-CV-397, in the Northern District of Florida. This case represents one step in FJI’s mission to ensure that people held in jail can still communicate freely with their loved ones.