Hamilton v. Hall (Jail Postcard-Only Mail Policy)
In July, 2010, Santa Rosa County Sheriff Wendell Hall instituted a Postcard-Only inmate mail policy. The policy prohibited jail inmates from sending letters enclosed in envelopes to their parents, children, spouses, friends, other loved ones, or other correspondents. Instead, Jail inmates had to write all of their correspondences in a postcard format except for privileged/legal mail. This policy impermissibly restricted inmates’ ability to exercise their rights to communicate with correspondents outside the jail and these correspondents’ right to receive these inmates’ communications and expressions, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Marcie Hamilton, who was an inmate at the jail, represented a class of inmates in a lawsuit against the Sheriff. On the eve of trial, the Sheriff agreed to allow inmates to again send personal letters and made provisions for them to receive writing materials. The District Court approved a Settlement Agreement and Consent Decree on February 13, 2012.