JOSEPH REILLY, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated v. SHERIFF OF LEON COUNTY

For nearly two-hundred years, the Leon County Sheriff operated a “safe and secure”  county jail and allowed inmates to receive letters from friends and family. However, in June 2014, the Sheriff of Leon County, Florida, instituted a Postcard-Only inmate mail policy. Pursuant to this policy, all incoming mail sent to jail inmates, except legal or privileged mail, had to be in a postcard form. The postcard had to be a minimum of 3 x 5 inches and a maximum of 4 x 6 inches, be written or typed in blue or black ink, include the inmate’s full name and inmate number, and include a complete return address. Friends and family could no longer send jail inmates letters, cards, full-page drawings, newspaper and magazine clippings, photocopied materials (including Florida Statutes and case law), and pages printed from an internet webpage. Indeed, the Sheriff refused to deliver drawings even on postcards.

The Sheriff’s Postcard-Only policy affected families, like Joe Reilly who kept in touch with his son, a jail inmate, through personal letters. Letters were essential because of the high cost of telephones and difficulty of visiting for many, including Reilly who lives in Maryland. Whereas Reilly could fully express himself in a letter, the postcard form reduced the writing space and his correspondences to little more than a text or a Tweet.  Because letters were enclosed in envelopes and only subject to review by appropriate Jail officials, inmates and their correspondents previously could feel confident that this sensitive information would not be exposed for others to see, including postal carriers, line guards, and other inmates. But the Postcard-Only policy changed that.

Reilly sued the Leon Sheriff alleging the Postcard-Only policy violated his ability to freely and substantively communicate with his son. The Sheriff rescinded the policy, but has not committed to allowing letters going forward. So, Reilly has moved the court for a summary disposition of the case before trial. We await the court’s decision.