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January 20, 2005

Rumor from a federal prison

I was off-line most of the afternoon to attend a terrific meeting of the Ohio Sentencing Commission (in which Blakely/Booker was the topic of conversation).  The meeting was amazing for many reasons, and later tonight I will have news and notes on various state Blakely fronts. 

But, upon return to my office, I received a curious second-hand report that at least one federal prison initially "had banned all communications sent to prisoners re: Booker, and allegedly did so pursuant to a Bureau of Prisons policy."  But then, according to the report I received, as a result of a follow-up call to the prison administrator, "the next day the prisoner received his Booker communications [and the prisoner] was told that the BOP issued a bulletin changing its position."

This report, which perhaps should only be given rumor status, is notable in part because, as detailed here and here, in December BOP had encouraged each of its 100-plus institutions to take appropriate steps to inform prisoners about the outcome in Booker and to make the opinion and other legal materials available.  More generally, given the mixed and confusing message that Booker delivers, I am curious about both the prisoner and BOP reaction to the ruling.

Perhaps readers can use the comments to share any news on this front.

January 20, 2005 at 05:08 PM | Permalink


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I am a paralegal. We have a lot of communications with federal prisoners. I have personal knowledge that USP Leavenworth is almost completely restricting all incoming legal materials. It started with Program Statement 1351.05 (9-19-02) where the BOP Ruled that inmates could not possess their presentence reports or the statement of reasons from their judgments. In practice, the administration is "losing" and withholding anything that looks like "legal mail".

Posted by: Dennis Deters | Jan 20, 2005 5:30:14 PM

I do know that I had overnighted the full opinion to my husband the evening it was available, and it was finally delivered yesterday, with the explanation "We had mistakenly delivered it to the wrong building". However, this has not happened in the three years he has been sent mail at this address. Hmmmm...

Posted by: Willa | Jan 20, 2005 5:56:24 PM

I don't know about the missing legal mail (I can't imagine that this is intentionally happening on a widespread basis, because it would be too easy to detect and would infuriate too many judges). Re: Program Statement 1351.05 (9-19-02), I've talked with BOP case agents who stated that the statement is necessary because if prisoners had access to PSRs in their cells, the information in the PSR would be solen/leaked to other prisoners (and PSRs often contain very sensitive information about a defendant's prior history, cooperation agreements, etc) which would be a security risk to the inmate and to the prison.
I don't know what's going on in the prison population re: Booker, but I'm bracing for a whole bunch of 2255s and undesignated motions for resentencing.

Posted by: District Clerk Battling Blakely | Jan 20, 2005 6:17:30 PM

My (white collar) client in Fort Dix, NJ said nothing to me about problems receiving materials when I called to report the ruling to him. In fact he reported that inmate knolwedge of the ruling was widespread - albeit confused.

Wayne D. Holly

Posted by: Wayne | Jan 20, 2005 7:19:17 PM

Safford FCI posted the Blakely information on
the bulletin for all of the inmates to read.
Any information gives them hope.I am the
mother of an inmate at Safford and I copy all of the stuff that is on this site and send it to my son.
I appreciate every word that is written it on this site because it helps keep all of them informed and up to date.

Posted by: Irene harbour | Jan 20, 2005 7:52:47 PM

Having served decades inside the BOP I can assure you that BOP officials are quick to slow down any legal mail they feel might be cause for undue tensions within their respective facilities. Years ago Warden Margaret Hambrick at FCI-Butner (NC) had to face the press and admit that hundreds of letters to inmates had been unearthed at a local dump and the letters were unopened.

Posted by: Raymond James | Jan 20, 2005 9:30:27 PM

Within a week after the decision was announced I had received mail from clients and former clients at many federal prisons, and expect to continue to receive a lot of such mail. Knowledge of Booker is widespread among inmates in the federal prison system; I can't imagine there is any sort of embargo. (A lot of what the inmates think they know is inaccurate, or reflects wishful thinking, of course, but that's true of a lot of what I'm hearing from other defense lawyers, too!)

Posted by: Peter G | Jan 20, 2005 10:03:23 PM

I am the wife of an inmate who was recently transfered to another prison.They have
"conviently" mislocated a box of his things that that contain legal papers thus making him
redo ALL of his legal briefs! And this is
not the first time that this has happened.
I do appreciate all the information that you
give us.And look forward to more information
on Booker and Fanfan.

Posted by: ann | Jan 20, 2005 10:19:26 PM

It was such that of mere coincidence that I overnighted my husband a copy of the brief with confirmation. He never got it, however mysteriously the camp had conveniently provided the prisoners with a copy of there own...

Posted by: Kaley | Jan 21, 2005 9:16:12 AM

Speaking as someone who has previously worked on the inside for the BOP I can tell you that I have personally seen important legal notices withheld from prisoners. While it is not the attitude of all BOP employees, the widespread notion that "they got nothing coming" is rampant in the BOP. However institutions are run according to how the administration at each individual one allows, which is why some are better than others. Unfortunately the system has become more of a business than the rehabilitation it is meant to be, mostly due to mandatory minimum sentences and the outrageous time being served by non-violent, first-time offenders. My prayers are that our government will admit their error and realize justice demands correcting what they have done. The notion of a violation of your constitutional rights not helping you if your case is closed should scare every American citizen.

Posted by: Amy | Jan 21, 2005 9:47:32 AM

An effective technique to combat "lost" inmate mail is to send it with a signature request -- I prefer registered or certified USPS Priority, or Express Mail (depending on my goals and the message I'm sending mailroom COs). Not only can the sender track these specialized mails via http://www.usps.gov, but USPS also notes the BOP agent signing for the mail. Once a CO is publically identified, I've found far fewer shennanigans go on than if anonymity is allowed.

For particularly risky mailings, or where inmates have a demonstrated pattern of "lost" mail, a Return Receipt Request is also signed by the receiver, then immediately put back in the postal stream for delivery to sender.

These modes cost more than 37 cents, but they promise a reduction in "lost" mail.

Posted by: Jay | Jan 21, 2005 1:52:23 PM

I agree that it's Cimportant to use the postal "Signature Confirmation Slip" when mailing to the prison. We've used that to prove receipt and track down the location of the documents. Some have been "lost", however, between the mail room and the prisoner.

Posted by: Dennis Deters | Jan 21, 2005 4:43:44 PM

Federal defender's Office in Eastern District of Tennessee reported receiving calls from inmates at two federal prisons on the day booker/fanfan came out because inmates said wardens at the two respective prisons had announced via loudspeaker the decision.

Posted by: Jamie Satterfield | Jan 21, 2005 6:14:42 PM

While there are several facilities that regularly reject material printed from the internet, most do not. In fact, many institutions have circulated a memo advising that the inmate law library hours would be extended (where possible) to accomodate prparation of materials that may be necessary under the SCOTUS decision.

Posted by: Howard O. Kieffer | Jan 21, 2005 7:56:39 PM

I overnighted the opinion to my fiance at USP Lee and he got it no problem. He said all the guys think they're coming home. He also said they provided about 20 copies of the opinion for everyone to look at.

Posted by: cat | Jan 22, 2005 2:07:07 AM

I over-nighted the overwhelming hundred something pages, along with copies of all of the added articles, links, interpretations, and then some, to my fiance' in Greenville,Ill., and he recieved the entirety immediately, for which I am greatful. Except that we are all still having a difficult time understanding how any part may relate to his specific case, or how it applies retroactively to anyone who is already incarcerated. And of course we don't hear back from his attorney, who I hope is only taking this time to find the answers we need before returning the phone call. I do also appreciate this site, all of the work you put into it, the links to other information- which would have taken days to plug in and find through search engines, and all the comments from people who seem to be related at heart, and mostly for continuing to bring me information in a language I can actually understand! BLESS YOU!

Posted by: Laurie | Jan 22, 2005 3:13:09 PM

I want to know if you can tell anything about prison rights.My husband is in fort dix hospital.The prison want give me no information on him.I got my information from outside source.I heard he had a stoke. Please tell me what can i do

Posted by: sharon | Jun 24, 2007 3:58:24 PM

The truth about Howard Kieffer is here:


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