Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Negotiating the Prison System sucks

We get a lot of mail orders from prisoners at Green Ronin. Over the years I've occasionally heard from the same prisoners repeatedly. Some just place orders, some ask for updated catalogs. Some correspondence is so immature in its composition, so illegible, sometimes so entirely unintelligible, I have been left to wonder if this prisoner doesn't have some larger problem than just being incarcerated. Other times we get pleas from very smooth and persuasive prisoners who tell a tale of woe, how the man is keeping them down when all they want is some new roleplaying stuff, is there any way they could get some dinged copies for free and make some poor lonely prisoners a little happier. It really runs the gamut.

I have no idea who these prisoners are or what crimes they're being punished for. I never respond in any personal way to their letters, I don't go for the con men and their sob stories (as much of a sap as I can be, I'm not that much of a soft touch) but occasionally we get special requests from prisoners (such as the guy who wanted a copy of one of our hard cover books but hard cover books weren't allowed in his prison, so he asked me to please remove the cover from the book, or the guy who asked if I could print out and send him the errata and other freebie materials from the website since he had no access to a computer) and I do what I can to accommodate reasonable requests.

I just received a prisoner order that was returned, postage due even though I'd clearly paid the postage on it when it was sent. Even our postal delivery guy didn't know what was up, he'd never seen this particular form before. I paid the postage due and examined the package a little later. It was an order from the middle of October! It had been opened and re-taped by the prison (which I guess is why there was postage due). Inside there was a two page list of possible reasons this package might have been returned. Not one of them was checked, at the bottom of page two was written "Over the allowed (4) books". This guy had ordered three books and a copy of our Hamunaptra boxed set (which contains three booklets and a poster map) and the prison warden denied him. D'oh. In this particular case, I'm considering re-sending the books in separate packages. I must be feeling the Christmas spirit.

This particular inmate is in a Florida State institution, so the rules on what he is or isn't allowed to receive are different than other states or Federal prisons. It's virtually impossible for us to know what the rules are when we receive these orders... mostly I just close my eyes and hope the guy actually gets his books. Just looking at the list of possible reasons for something to be returned is intimidating: greeting card is larger than 8" x 10", contains a polaroid photograph, contains "excess" blank greeting cards, stationary or other blank paper or envelopes, routine mail delivered in padded envelope, mail utilizes home made envelopes or packages, contains Money Order, is "dangerously inflammatory in that it advocates or encourages riot, insurrection, disruption...", excess of 5 pages of additional written or printed materials without prior approval from the warden...

I know there are good reasons for all of these rules, that they are in place because some inmate somewhere was bilking someone, making a shiv from his hardcover book, had concealed something in a polaroid photo, blah blah. No need to lecture me about the necessity of these rules being in place for the good of society and the safety of the inmates or any of that (I'm looking at you, Matt Goodman). I'm just remarking on the fact that the rules are extensive, intimidating, and unpredictable for anyone not immersed in America's prison culture.


for this post

Leave a Reply