Montana State Prison officials revealed a new inmate correspondence policy last week via an announcement on their website.
But though it's better than the old policy, which completely prohibited any correspondence in a foreign language, there is stillroom for improvement. Our negotiations with prison officials over the policy continue.
The ACLU of Montana sued the prison in July on behalf of an inmate who has been denied mail written in Spanish by members of his family.
Inmates do not give up their constitutional rights when they enter prison, and one of those rights is to exercising free speech.
The prison's policy was implemented because staff review incoming and outgoing mail for safety reasons, but officials did not want to employ a translator.
The revised policy calls for the prison to translate mail in a foreign language, but gives staff 20 days to accomplish that and allows them to determine the mail undeliverable if the letter cannot be translated in that timeframe. There are no specific provisions regarding what efforts will be made to find a translator.
We believe such steps should be outlined in the policy.
Negotiations to settle our lawsuit continue.