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Lawyer Mail to Inmates Should be Clearly Marked

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In Grist for the Mill — which is Ram Dass’s 1976 follow-up to the essential Be Here Now as collective roadmaps to experiencing daily non-materialistic joy and growth in this life and the next ones (see an excerpt here) — Ram Dass references his involvement with the Prison Ashram Project. He points out that in prison, the authorities handle such external matters for inmates as three daily meals and a spare room to sleep in —- which is a common occurrence at monasteries, but the similarity drastically ends there, including the inhumanity and 24-hour confinement of prisons —- leaving the inmates more able to attend to their internal growth (that is, I suppose, when not looking behind the inmates’ back against risks of serious hassling and assault by other inmates, both sexual and non-sexual).

Inmates’ mail gets reviewed by prison staff, even mail from lawyers. So much for an ashram setting, but prison does afford inmates a chance to reach the type of daily contemplation and meditation that is much more of a challenge to accomplish until people get out of the rat-race schedule and mentality of the working world.

On September 20, the Seventh Circuit said that prison staffers may only open mail from attorneys when doing so in the presence of inmates. Guajardo-Palma v. Martinson, ___ F.3d ___ (7th Cir., Sept. 20, 2010). Guajardo-Palma  still allows prison staff to glance at the mail to assure that the sender is an actual lawyer.

Consequently, it is important for attorneys and their staffs to write on the front (bottom right) and back of inmate mail in big capitals: LEGAL MAIL. ONLY OPEN IN THE PRESENCE OF THE INMATE.

Thanks to the Wisconsin Bar’s website for posting on Guajardo-Palma and to the ABA Journal for providing the link.