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Sweeney v. Commissioner, Indiana Department of Correction

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 24, 2018

CHARLES SWEENEY and ANTHONY DELAROSA, on their own behalf and on behalf of those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
COMMISSIONER, INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          HON. WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE.

This cause is before the Court on the Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Dkt. No. 9). The motion is fully briefed, and the Court held a hearing on the motion on June 15, 2018. The Court, being duly advised, GRANTS the motion for the reasons set forth below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The named plaintiffs in this case, Charles Sweeney and Anthony Delarosa, are adult residents of Indiana who are committed to the Defendant Indiana Department of Corrections (“DOC”) and are confined at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. On April 1, 2017, the DOC implemented Executive Directive #17-13, which regulates how inmates may receive non-legal mail.[1] The most recent version of the regulation is Executive Directive #18-34, which provides, in relevant part:

The purpose of this Executive Directive is to re-authorize Executive Directive # 17-66, prohibiting incoming offender correspondence with colored envelopes, colored paper, and greeting cards mailed to offenders through the United States Postal System (USPS). This Executive Directive is applicable to all Department facilities and is effective immediately. Effective May 30, 2018 Executive Directive # 17-66 is rescinded, replaced by this Executive Directive.
In order to impede the introduction of narcotics and synthetic narcotics into the Department's facilities, greeting cards, colored envelopes, colored paper, newspaper clippings, and any personal correspondence printed/written on any paper other than originally purchased plain white, lined paper shall no longer be considered allowable correspondence. On the effective date, greeting cards, colored paper, colored envelopes, and any personal correspondence printed/written on any paper other than originally purchased plain white, lined paper (no printer paper) entering the facility via the USPS shall be processed in accordance with Section XII, “Disposition of Incoming Correspondence, ” and Section XIII, “Report of Action Taken on Correspondence, ” of Policy and Administrative Procedure 02-01-103, “Offender Correspondence.”
Incoming correspondence to offenders must be in a plain white envelope and the letter/correspondence inside the envelope must be on originally purchased, plain white, lined paper. Photographs shall be permitted provided they are printed onto originally purchased, plain white, lined paper. All stamps shall be removed from the envelope prior to the offender receiving his/her mail. This Executive Directive does not prohibit correspondence, including computer-printed newspaper articles and drawings/artwork, on originally purchased plain white, lined paper and plain white envelopes that have text printed on them manually or electronically.
Legal mail is exempt from this Executive Directive and shall be processed in accordance with Policy and Administrative Procedure 02-01-103, “Offender Correspondence, ” and Policy and Administrative Procedure 00-01-102, “Offender Access to the Courts.”
Religious correspondence mailed by a religious organization, not an individual, may be exempt from this Executive Directive provided that the facility Chaplain or Warden/designee approves the correspondence prior to issuing the correspondence to the offender.
Educational correspondence mailed from an educational organization, not an individual, may be exempt from this Executive Directive, provided the Warden or designee approves the correspondence prior to issuing the correspondence to the offender.
This Executive Directive does not affect the electronic greeting cards available through JPay. Facilities are directed to notify the offender population, in their customary manner, of this change. Offenders shall be encouraged to notify their family, friends, and other correspondents of this change.
The Warden has the discretion to determine the disposition of correspondence that is not addressed in this Executive Directive. This includes the discretion to copy all correspondence outside of Legal Mail, that is not from a religious or educational organization in their official capacities (i.e., as part of course work).

         Dkt. No. 64-1 at 1-2. The regulation was put in place to make it easier for prison staff to determine whether any liquid substances have been concealed in paper. Narcotics and synthetic narcotics have been sent through the mail into prisons by soaking them into paper. Lined paper reveals variations in the lines if the paper has been soaked and thus allows for easier detention of illicit substances.

         II. ...


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