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Can Federal Prisoners Blog From Prison?

By Christopher Zoukis

Yesterday a regular Prison
Law Blog
reader, who is preparing to self-report to a Federal Prison Camp,
brought a question to our attention.  He
asked, “Once I self-surrender, can I blog from prison?”  As regular readers of the Prison Law Blog
know, we love tackling First Amendment in the correctional context issues.  We provide some answers on blogging from
prison.

The Question: Can I
Blog From Prison?

Federal prisoners, and those in state custody for that
matter, have a right to the exercise of their First Amendment privileges. 
In the prison context, this means creatively writing and seeking
publication for those creative writings. 
These creative writings could be letters, articles, blog posts, books,
reports, studies, or even drawings.*1  Yes,
even political cartoons are protected by the First Amendment.

The most common question concerns writing in the electronic
realm.  This is a grayer area, but a
solid one from the case law perspective. 
The Federal Bureau of Prisons’ “Manuscript” program statement
clearly states that prisoners are allowed to write for publication and they can
mail out their manuscripts as general correspondence, without staff approval or
authorization.  This is in line with the
BOP’s “Correspondence” program statement.  These program statements, though, don’t
specifically authorize federal prisoners
to write for electronic publication. 
After all, the “Manuscript” program statement was promulgated
in the 1990s, back when the internet wasn’t commonplace in homes and really
wasn’t heard of on cell phones. 
Regardless of the lack of specific and direct authorization to write for
the online marketplace, the Prison Law
Blog
asserts — as case law and other experts in the field support — that
prisoners have a right to write for online publication, either on a personal
blog or at larger media or creative writing outlets (e.g., the Huffington Post, Slate.com, Salon.com, ANDmagazine.com etc.).

Restrictions on Content

In terms of the writing itself, the only real area to be
mindful of is the content.  Prisoners
most certainly can voice their objections to or feelings about anything.  They can also voice their political, personal,
and other sorts of opinions.  But what
they can’t do is violate existing laws through their writings or, more specific
to the prison context, write anything which would hinder the “good order,
security, or operations of the institution.”

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Full Circle Restorative Justice Part 2

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Full Circle Restorative Justice (FCRJ) of the 11th Judicial District of Colorado was founded in 2006 by Dianne Walker resulting from her personal experience with the criminal justice system. (For more details read FCRJ, Part l.)

Restorative Justice (RJ) is based on a theory of justice and a global social change movement that endorses peaceful approaches to harm, problem-solving and violations of legal and human rights.

The FCRJ Board of Directors’ diligence and community support has provided the  community with education on the concepts of restorative justice, trained volunteer conference facilitators, and was awarded non-profit 501c3 status in April 2009.  FCRJ is celebrating their Holiday Potluck Party on Dec. 17. The individuals from the left are Dunk, Chris & Jake, Toni, Mike, Cheryl, Patty, Karen & Laura.

The mission of Full Circle Restorative Justice is to provide alternative dispute resolution and facilitation within the 11th Judicial District of Colorado. Full Circle strives to: “To enhance the safety of our community by addressing offender accountability and to empower victims through a supportive conflict resolution process.”

A majority of board members became involved with FCRJ as a result of their own personal experiences with the justice system, experiences which evolved into an inspiration for exploring alternatives to punitive approaches of the current justice system.

The FCRJ board has been trained as volunteer facilitators by Restorative Solutions, LLC, Youth Transformation Center/Boomerang Program, and Center for Restorative Practices.

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