Special Investigative Services (SIS) Technician Michael Johnson has a history of scanning legal/media mail at FCI Sheridan and giving those scans to the FBI. These actions clearly violate the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Program Statement on Correspondence (PS 5265.14). PS 5264.14 classifies correspondence addressed to reporters at newspapers as “Special Mail” and prohibits staff from inspecting that mail.
Section 540.2 states, “Definitions. (a) General correspondence means incoming or outgoing correspondence other than special mail…(b) Representatives of the news media means persons whose principal employment is to gather or report news for: (1) A newspaper which qualifies as a general circulation newspaper in the community in which it is published…(c) Special mail means correspondence sent to the following…representatives of the news media.” Under Section 540.2 Maxine Bernstein clearly qualifies as a representative of the news media because she is a crime reporter for The Oregonian newspaper and its website OregonLive.com. The Oregonian has been Oregon’s largest general circulation newspaper for decades and is what people are talking about when they say “The Paper” in Portland, Oregon.
Section 540.18 states, “Special Mail…(c) (1) Except as provided for in paragraph (c)(2) of this section, outgoing special mail may be sealed by the inmate and is not subject to inspection…(2) Special mail shall be screened in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section when the special mail is being sent by an inmate who has been placed on restricted special mail status…(d) Except for special mail processed in accordance with paragraph (c)(2) of this section, staff shall stamp the following statement directly on the back side of the inmates outgoing special mail: ‘The enclosed letter was processed through special mailing procedures for forwarding to you. The letter has neither been opened nor inspected. If the writer raises a question or problem over which this facility has jurisdiction, you may wish to return the material for further information or clarification. If the writer
encloses correspondence for forwarding to another addressee, please return the enclosure to the above address.'” I have never been on restricted special mail status as far as I know, so SIS Tech. Johnson never had the right to interfere with outgoing mail sent to The Oregonian. Even if I had been on restricted status his inspection would have to have been limited to looking for contraband in my presence. Scanning Special Mail is not permitted.
Section 540.20 further states, “Inmate correspondence with representatives of the news media. (a) An inmate may write through special mail to representatives of the news media specified by name or title (see 540.2(b)). Properly identified and labeled correspondence from an inmate who is not on restricted mail status to qualifying news media representatives is sealed and forwarded without inspection, directly and promptly. Properly identified and labeled correspondence from an inmate on restricted special mail status is also sealed and forwarded promptly, but may be subject to inspection per procedures in Section 10. If there is doubt whether a representative qualifies, contact the Public Information Officer in the Central Office.” This part of PS 5265.14 is important because it permits inmates to send unsealed correspondence to the news media without permitting staff to read it because such mail if addressed to the news media is supposed to be “sealed and forwarded without inspection.” Under 540.20 it is not a defense for Mr. Johnson to claim that the inmate failed to seal the correspondence before mailing it. This is especially important for inmates in the special housing unit (SHU) because the SHU staff are reluctant to help inmates send out sealed mail even though all they have to do is inspect it, sign it, and place it in the legal mail. They just ignore the inmate’s request and eventually the inmate is forced to choose between sending the mail open and vulnerable to inspection or not send it at all.
SIS Technician Johnson not only inspected my “Special Mail” outside of my presence in violation of BOP regulations, he also copied it, and sent the copy to the FBI. The latter would make the letter vulnerable to an unlawful search challenge if the government ever tried to use it as evidence in court, but even if they do not the potential chilling effect is obvious when the FBI can use Special Mail as part of their investigations.
Published at Wed, 04 Dec 2019 15:45:35 +0000