Imagine that your main contact with the world is through letters. Imagine that contact being cut off.
That's what happened to the ACLU's client William Diaz-Wassmer at Montana State Prison when officials began refusing to send or allow him to receive any letters written in Spanish. Suddenly, he could no longer communicate with his family in California.
While inmates give up some rights when the enter prison, they don't give up their First Amendment right to speech. The ACLU believes that MSP's english-only policy is a direct violation of that First Amendment right to free speech, as well as the Constitution's 14th Amendment right to equal protection.
"Montana State Prison shouldn't deny our client the ability to communicate with his family simpy because it is inconvenient for them to employ someone to translate Spanish letters," says ACLU of Montana Legal Director Betsy Griffing. "Every person in this country -- whether in prison or out -- has First Amendment rights."