Hate Mail – “No Stamps”

Hate Mail – “No Stamps”

See the post that launched this series here.

We receive returned mail almost daily, refused due to various mail violations. Postage is one of our biggest expenses, so because postcards stamps are cheaper than regular first class stamps, we have an assortment of postcards that we mail for various standard purposes. The first postcard we created and started mailing is an adoption notice, letting an inmate know that someone has selected them as an adoptee and will be writing to them. We’ve received some very touching letters in response to these notices, when a prisoner gets the news that he or she has a new friend.

With Florida being one of the states that does not allow prisoners to have a penpal, mail rejections from Florida are common – they often will not allow our inmate surveys into the prison.

We’ve become aware of a new violation in Michigan, when the following was returned in yesterday’s mail:

(Note – the prisoner’s name was redacted by us for this post, all other markings are from the prison mailroom.)

It is common for prison mailrooms to reject mail with stickers or tape on the envelope or letter, including address labels. (The explanation for this is that drugs can be smuggled in on the adhesive.) We purposely print all our postcards with the return address, and hand address each one for this very reason – which takes a considerable amount of time versus printing out labels.

I had to call the mailroom of the Ojibway Correctional Facility to find out what the problem was with this postcard, because the address label was affixed by their mailroom, not us. I’ve never understood why mailrooms use black markers to cover over what is written on the envelope or card – and it makes it challenging for us to know who it was sent to, since we send out so much mail.

First, they inked out out our (correct) hand-written address, then affixed their own address label with the same address over the top of that, stamped it RETURN TO SENDER (x2) with the notation “No Stamps,” and returned it. Wtf, Ojibwe?

And if it doesn’t seem at worst malicious, and at best obnoxious already, take a look at what is commonly done to the other side of our adoption notices when they are returned (note – the adopter name was redacted by us for this post):

Curious what they felt was necessary to black out there at the bottom?

The call to the mailroom enlighted me to the reason for the rejection. No postage stamps are allowed on postcards. Friends and loved ones are allowed to send letters with postage stamps affixed, because the prisoner is not given the envelope. Instead, the contents are removed, scanned for contraband, and put into a new envelope provided by the mailroom. I didn’t think to ask if the inmate is charged for the envelope (I looked it up later*). Because they “can’t” remove the stamp from postcards, they refuse the entire card and return to sender. I asked if they could cut the stamps off postcards. “No.” I checked their website regarding mail rules (short version, long version), and this rule specific to postage stamps on post cards was nowhere to be found.

Yep, you heard it here. Michigan DOC does not permit postcards with postage stamps affixed. If you want to send a postcard to an inmate in Michigan, you must purchase metered postcards from the post office.

Here are some other interesting bits from MI DOC’s mail policy:

*Here’s the bit about envelopes:

PBF = Prisoner Benefit Funds*

Also not permitted:

Meaning, no handmade cards from children.

The clerk I spoke with checked to see if the intended recipient of the adoption notice had received a rejection notice. He had not. It appears they are not adhering to their own stated policy.

If you have your own hate mail stories of rejected mail, share them here.

Recent Donations

Recent Donations

Everything we do revolves around the mail, and opening our post office box is a daily adventure. This week, we received a handful of unexpected donations in the mail – just in time for our volunteer work sessions this weekend.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to angels Laurie and Nicole, who donated items in December and January; and to Wendy, Laura, and an anonymous donor who sent items this week. Because of your gifts, hundreds of inmates will hear their name at mail call in the coming weeks.

 

Jpay Stamp Sale

 

Jpay is offering a 10% discount on “stamps” for those who write to inmates in TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) starting today, Tuesday, December 5 until Tuesday, December 12, 2017.

IMPORTANT: If you use Jpay to write to inmates in any state – please email us to take advantage of reduced price stamps. Combining our method with this current ten percent discount will get you 60 stamps for $9.00.

Email now for details.

#GivingTuesday is Here!

#GivingTuesday is Here!

Give us some Tax Deductible love!

Everything we do comes out of our own pockets, and we could use a little help!

We’re working hard to respond to a huge backlog of requests from inmates seeking mentorship.

Our angel volunteers are lined up to help – but to make this happen we need to cover the cost of
stamps and printing to fund our final volunteer work sessions of 2017.

Help us reach our goal of $1500


Announcement: Hiatus From New Requests

Announcement: Hiatus From New Requests

IMPORTANT NOTICE

We receive over 1,000 pieces of mail each month, and are currently overwhelmed with requests from inmates and their families. Everything we do is accomplished only with the help of volunteers, small donations, and money from our own pockets. As of September 2017, we are taking a six-month hiatus from NEW INMATE REQUESTS ONLY, so that we can respond to what is already in front of us.
We care, and are dedicated to getting everyone on our waiting list (now and in the future) adopted. This temporary break from new requests will help us do that.

This does NOT apply to new adopters or volunteers – only to inmates who are not currently on our waiting list.

For anyone who has already requested a survey, please be patient while we respond – it could take several months but we will answer everyone’s request. Requests that included a self-addressed stamped envelope will be responded to first.

For inmates who have already received a survey – please complete and return (kindly write “completed survey” on the outside of the envelope.)

Inmates — Do continue to submit:

Inmate change of address (please write “COA” on the envelope)

Art / Poetry / Book Reviews / Writing submissions (please indicate on outside of envelope)

Others — How you can help:

Adopt an Inmate!

Volunteer

Donate stamps, office supplies (or cash to purchase them), to help us catch up with the hundreds of existing requests. See our Amazon Wishlist.

We will begin accepting new requests again in February of 2018, or sooner if we’re able.

Thank you for understanding.