5 Things to know about mail in provincial jail
- Kate Mitchell
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Mail can be an important way for provincial prisoners to maintain contact with their loved ones. Below are some things to know about mail in the provincial system:
- Prisoners receive a limited amount of free supplies to send letters. On admission, prisoners receive paper to send one letter at no cost. After that, prisoners receive paper to send two letters weekly at no cost. Prisoners can send more letters, but they need to buy the paper, envelopes, and stamps through the canteen. The Superintendent may, upon request, allow additional supplies for prisoners to send letters at no cost.
- Prisoners have no limit on the number of letters they can receive, but they can only keep so many in their cells. If a prisoner has accumulated too much paper in their cell, then they may need to store some in their property. This can be arranged by submitting a Request Form.
- Certain items cannot be mailed to prisoners, including large packages, books, magazines, stickers, food, and Polaroids. Senders need to also be careful about sending letters saturated with perfume or other odours, or letters that have lipstick kisses or other biohazards on them. These will not be delivered to the recipient, and they will instead be sealed and placed in the recipient’s property.
- Outgoing and incoming mail is monitored. Staff will refuse to send letters if the prisoner is not allowed to contact the recipient (e.g. if there is a court order barring contact). Police may even be contacted if they believe a court order has been violated, which can result in criminal charges. Prisoners are required to leave their enveloped unsealed in most cases, so letters can be monitored. Staff can refuse to send letters if they affect the security of the jail, threats someone, or incite violence. Similarly, if mail of this nature is sent in, then it will be returned to the sender and not given to the prisoner.
- Mail to certain recipients is privileged, meaning it is confidential and prisoners can seal their envelopes before placing them in the mail box. Prisoners can seal letters to their lawyers, which will only be opened and inspected if there are security concerns. Letters from lawyers can be read if there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe that they contain material that is not solicitor-client privileged. Other recipients whose mail is privileged include: the Ombudsman Ontario, Correctional Investigator of Canada, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, the Senior Medical Consultant, Manager of Corporate Health Care and the Client Conflict Resolution Unit (CCRU).