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Angela Cooper, ACLU-KY Communications Director 

(502) 654-8227 (call/text),

October 26, 2021

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ACLU of Kentucky and Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy Sue Kentucky Department of Corrections, others for Confiscating and Copying Confidential Legal Mail

The ACLU of Kentucky and Department of Public Advocacy today filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky Department of Corrections (DOC) and others seeking relief for incarcerated people whose ability to communicate confidentially with their attorneys is being impacted by DOC’s change in how privileged legal mail is processed. 

For nearly 50 years, the Kentucky Department of Corrections’ policy was to open incoming privileged legal mail in the presence of the recipient, inspect it for contraband only, and deliver it to the recipient. Without formally changing this policy, several facilities in 2020 began confiscating all incoming legal mail, photocopying it, and then delivering only the photocopy to the recipient. Often photocopies are not complete, and the original mail is often not secured, meaning other people could read this confidential mail. 

This practice violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, as well as several Kentucky statutes. Further, there is no evidence any contraband has ever been delivered via legal mail, so these changes are unnecessary and unduly onerous. Legal precedent states that prison authorities have the right to retain the envelope after inspecting legal mail for contraband, but must hand the original letter to the incarcerated recipient without reading it.

The suit requests the court provide immediate relief by suspending these unconstitutional practices and also asks the Department of Corrections to follow their policy of only inspecting privileged legal communications for contraband and delivering the original mail to the intended recipient. The U.S. Constitution guarantees every person the right to legal counsel without interference from the state. People do not lose this right just because they are incarcerated.

You can read the entire complaint in the PDF below.