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Does a person sending mail to prison have reas. expect. of privacy? Login/Join 
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We have a situation in our county. Someone is sending sexually explicit mail to a prison inmate, in which he discusses his propensity for young boys. He does not admit to acting on his "desire," but clearly states that he may not be able to resist the temptation for much longer. This person holds a position of authority in the community and has contact with children. Could we go to his superiors with copies of this mail (or publicize this info in some other way)? The goal is not humiliate anyone, but to protect potential victims. I have done research, but haven't been able to find any cases on point. I know inmates do not have any expectation of privacy, but does the person who writes to prisoners have one?
 
Posts: 22 | Location: Brenham, TX | Registered: October 06, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Just off the top of my head, I do not see any circumstances in which an individual who writes a letter to another person could claim any type of privacy right to the contents of the letter.

The writer of the letter can not prevent the receipent of the letter from letting other indiviudals read the letter, copy the letter, or take the original letter.

The writer of the letter can not even legitimately show a objective or a subjective standard whereby one would believe that when you send a letter to another individual you retain a privacy interest in the contents of the letter.
 
Posts: 69 | Location: Hunt County | Registered: February 27, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thanks for your response. I also felt that was true-- that once you "publish" to one person, you lose the expectation of privacy because anyone could read the letter if the addressee shared it or was just plain careless with it. But the cases I came up with only talk about prison inmates not having an expectation of privacy in their mail because policy considerations allowed prison staff to read & even censor inmate mail. So, if a prisoner confesses a crime to his girlfriend in a letter, we can use that as evidence against him at his trial. But what about this case, where no actual crime has been committed, the writer is in the free world, and we just want to alert potential victims and people who would potentially be liable for his conduct if he actually did something? Head v. State, 82 sw3d 735,738 says that when a parcel is boxed, sealed with tape at the time it was sent, that would give rise to a "legitimate expectation of privacy by the sender and receiver of the package," citing Calloway, 743 sw2d 645, 651. Head is about a Fed Ex worker who finds drugs in a package he was inspecting and calls the cops. (Not in a prison context.) Anyone know of any other cases out there?
 
Posts: 22 | Location: Brenham, TX | Registered: October 06, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Since this discussion is morphing into a 4th amendment doohicky, consider:

"When the postal service delivered appellant's letter to the addressee, it delivered over appellant's claim to any reasonable expectation of privacy in that letter as well. Having passed beyond his control and into the control of one not his agent, appellant lost standing to complain of any Fourth Amendment violation." Garcia v. State, 960 S.W.2d 329, 331-32 (Tex.App.--Corpus Christi 1997, no pet.).

I have no opinion about the wisdom of a gov't agency publicizing such a letter, but I think undoubtedly the recipient can do with it what he wants. In Head, if I recall, the potential problem was that the package was intercepted before it got to the defendant (recipient), repackaged, and sent to him. In your case, if the prisoner who receives the letter wants to publicize it, I can't see what stops him.
 
Posts: 135 | Location: Fort Worth | Registered: August 08, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Did the inmate actually receive the letter and does he want to release it? Or did the jail staff read the incoming letter without the inmate's knowledge?
 
Posts: 306 | Location: Tarrant County, Texas | Registered: August 24, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The inmate knows that his mail is subject to inspection, but I do not believe he knows our office was alerted to these letters by TDC staff. TDC thought we ought to know what an "upstanding citizen" in our community is sending to a prison inmate. The inmate was given the letters, after they were copied and provided to the Texas Ranger for our county.
 
Posts: 22 | Location: Brenham, TX | Registered: October 06, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I assume that the policies of the jail are public policies. Anyone sending mail into the jail is impliedly aware of the policies and therefore is on (implied) notice that his mail is subject to inspection. Based on this notice, there can be no expectation of privacy.
 
Posts: 187 | Location: Lubbock, Texas USA | Registered: October 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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There is no expectation of privacy in jail or TDCJ. Check United States v. Harrelson 754 F.2d 1153 (1985). This case was where the person talking on the phone to and inmate was convected of planing a crime. Even though this case is a phone call instead of a letter it says that there is no expectation of privacy between an inmate and someone in the free world.
 
Posts: 6 | Location: Haskell, Texas, Haskell | Registered: September 23, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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How about calling the pervert in and confronting him. What if he is not the letter writer? Can you prove he sent it? Your Grand Jury may be a good forum for questioning the Pervert.Sure gled its not in our jurisdiction. Keep us informed.
 
Posts: 333 | Location: Beeville, Texas., USA | Registered: September 14, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thanks to all of you for your feedback. Warnerbee, that is a great idea about taking him to grand jury. I will present it to my boss. I'll keep you posted on how this mess turns out --good or bad. Here is hoping none of you will have to face this problem, but odds are someone else out there will. As of now, this topic is still open. If anyone else has any ideas or knows of any caselaw that may help, please keep it coming.
 
Posts: 22 | Location: Brenham, TX | Registered: October 06, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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