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Rationally Related: Court OKs Prison Pen Pal Solicitation Ban

By Robyn Hagan Cain on December 23, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The U.S. Postal Service is in financial trouble. The latest proposed patch to save the service includes eliminating 28,000 jobs and cutting next-day first class mail delivery, reports The New York Times.

But while the Postal Workers Union is considering a "send a letter to your mom" campaign to increase postal revenue, and the Postal Service is running commercials promoting the sense of security that comes with a printed statement, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is impeding the Postal Service's comeback in Florida.

This week, the Eleventh Circuit upheld a Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) prison pen pal-solicitation ban on the grounds that the measure was rationally related to a legitimate penological interest.

The FDOC enacted the measure in 2004 to prevent inmates from using pen pal-solicitation services to defraud people. Although the FDOC does not cite any specific instances of fraud within Florida, the district court found the testimony of a former FDOC employee and anecdotal evidence from newspaper reports throughout the country persuasive evidence of fraudulent activity.

Joy Perry, who operates two pen pal solicitation services, Freedom Through Christ Prison Ministry and Prison Pen Pals, brought a civil rights action against FDOC, alleging that the rule violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

Finding that pen pal solicitation scams are a common vehicle for fraud, and that the FDOC rule was the least exaggerated response possible, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the rule.

The decision isn't surprising; in July, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a similar prison pen pal solicitation ban in Indiana.

Do you agree with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals? Should the court have demanded specific instances of prison pen pal fraud in the Florida prisons to support its finding that the rule was rationally related to a legitimate penological interest?

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