Response to PA DOC’s New Protocols

On September 5, 2018 PA Gov. Tom Wolf and Corrections Secretary John Wetzel announced new protocols that will be put into place at all PA State Correctional Institutes (SCIs). The protocols are restrictive and punitive to incarcerated people and their families. On top of making it even more difficult for people on the inside to stay connected with their communities on the outside, they will severely limit Books Through Bar’s ability to send free books to people in prison.

The restrictions that most directly affect BTB include the following:

  • People in prison cannot receive physical mail. All non-legal mail will be sent to a processing center in Florida, where it will be opened, scanned, and emailed to the prison. Prison staff will print the scan and give it to the inmate. Physical mail, including cards and photos, will be destroyed and digital copies will be stored indefinitely.

  • People in prison must order and pay for all print books through the prison commissary. They can no longer receive donated books.

  • The DOC is setting up an e-book scheme that requires centralized purchases of costly e-readers and a limited number of e-books offered at the prisons’ discretion and under their surveillance.

These protocols mean that Books Through Bars cannot send book packages to any Pennsylvania state prisons.

BTB and other groups are organizing a response. In the near future, we will need your help as we push back. For now, you can take the following actions:

  • Join the second mass call in on Friday September 21 to let Governor Wolf and other elected officials know that these policies must be reversed!
  • Sign an online petition started by the Amistad Law Center, asking Gov. Wolf to cancel the new restrictions. Share the petition on social media and via e-mail.

  • Attend BTB’s book sale on September 22 to support organization efforts and learn about our planned response

  • Join the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration (CADBI) in Harrisburg for their Day of Action on October 2. The new restrictions and their impacts on incarcerated people and their families will be one of the focuses of the actions.

  • Stay tuned for more calls to action in the coming days and weeks!

Articles about new protocols and their effects:

Return to sender: no more mailing books to inmates in Pennsylvania from Slate (9/19/18)

After PA prisons crack down on books to stop drug smuggling, Twitter calls BS from Philly Inquirer (9/18/18)

An incarcerated writer speaks out on Pennsylvania’s extreme new prison rules from the Philadelphia Partisan (9/14/18)

PA limits inmate books among ‘growing drug crisis’ from the Crime Report (9/13/18)

PA prison books and mail policies draw protest, petitions, and possible legal challenges from Philly Inquirer (9/13/18)

‘Paper soaked in loved ones’ tears’: How mail helps PA prisoners stay grounded from Philly Inquirer (9/13/18)

Pennsylvania prisons terminating book donations after ‘drug crisis’ from BillyPenn (9/12/18)

Critics say new prison rules to curb drug smuggling are too harsh, but DOC claims they’re necessary from Metro (9/12/18)

PA prisons spend $15M after guards were sickened by K2. But what if it was just in their heads? from Philly Inquirer (9/7/18)

Changes at Pennsylvania prisons could effectively end book donation programs from The Incline (9/6/18)