A Riverside County lawmaker’s bill seeking to authorize correctional officers to inspect prisoners’ outgoing mail — and stop it from leaving a facility — to ensure that correspondence does not reach victims in violation of a protective order was unanimously approved Thursday by the state Senate.
The 38-0 vote in favor of Senate Bill 1146 advances the proposal to the Assembly for consideration.
Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Palm Desert, said SB 1146 is intended to provide an “additional level of protection to those victims who have already suffered enough” and should not have to endure harassment by inmates.
Under existing law, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation staff are permitted to open and vet most incoming and outgoing correspondence to ensure inmates are not planning an escape, attempting to foment violence or receiving contraband.
However, according to a non-partisan Senate analysis of Stone’s proposal, there is no clearly defined provision authorizing corrections officials to intercept and hold mail when it may violate a criminal protective order or restraining order.
Victims who are under protective orders can notify corrections officials that they have received mail from a convict or jail detainee and request to have the contact halted. But state law doesn’t specifically recognize the authority of an officer to do so at his or her own discretion, according to the analysis.
If Stone’s bill becomes law, inmates convicted of restraining order or protective order violations via mail could be charged with a misdemeanor offense and fined up to $5,000.
The Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, a union representing deputies, District Attorney’s Office investigators and probation agents, is actively supporting the legislation.
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