50 FR 40109, Oct. 1, 1985, unless otherwise noted.
The Bureau of Prisons encourages correspondence that is directed to socially useful goals. The Warden shall establish correspondence procedures for inmates in each institution, as authorized and suggested in this rule.
The Warden shall establish at least one mail depository within the institution for an inmate to place outgoing correspondence. The Warden may establish a separate mail depository for outgoing special mail. Each item placed in a mail depository must contain a return address (see § 540.12(d)).
(a) The Warden shall establish and exercise controls to protect individuals, and the security, discipline, and good order of the institution. The size, complexity, and security level of the institution, the degree of sophistication of the inmates confined, and other variables require flexibility in correspondence procedures. All Wardens shall establish open general correspondence procedures.
(b) Staff shall inform each inmate in writing promptly after arrival at an institution of that institution's rules for handling of inmate mail. This notice includes the following statement:
The staff of each institution of the Bureau of Prisons has the authority to open all mail addressed to you before it is delivered to you. “Special Mail” (mail from the President and Vice President of the U.S., attorneys, Members of the U.S. Congress, Embassies and Consulates, the U.S. Department of Justice (excluding the Bureau of Prisons but including U.S. Attorneys), other Federal law enforcement officers, State Attorneys General, Prosecuting Attorneys, Governors, U.S. Courts (including U.S. Probation Officers), and State Courts) may be opened only in your presence to be checked for contraband. This procedure occurs only if the sender is adequately identified on the envelope and the front of the envelope is marked “Special Mail - Open only in the presence of the inmate.” Other mail may be opened and read by the staff.
If you do not want your general correspondence opened and read, the Bureau will return it to the Postal Service. This means that you will not receive such mail. You may choose whether you want your general correspondence delivered to you subject to the above conditions, or returned to the Postal Service. Whatever your choice, special mail will be delivered to you, after it is opened in your presence and checked for contraband. You can make your choice by signing part I or part II.
I have read or had read to me the foregoing notice regarding mail. I do not want my general correspondence opened and read. I REQUEST THAT THE BUREAU OF PRISONS RETURN MY GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE TO THE POSTAL SERVICE. I understand that special mail will be delivered to me, after it is opened in my presence and checked for contraband.
I have read or had read to me the foregoing notice regarding mail, I WISH TO RECEIVE MY GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE. I understand that the Bureau of Prisons may open and read my general correspondence if I choose to receive same. I also understand that special mail will be delivered to me, after it is opened in my presence and checked for contraband.
Inmate (Name), (Reg. No.), refused to sign this form. He (she) was advised by me that the Bureau of Prisons retains the authority to open and read all general correspondence. The inmate was also advised that his (her) refusal to sign this form will be interpreted as an indication that he (she) wishes to receive general correspondence subject to the conditions in part II above.
Staff Member's Signature
(c) Staff shall inform an inmate that letters placed in the U.S. Mail are placed there at the request of the inmate and the inmate must assume responsibility for the contents of each letter. Correspondence containing threats, extortion, etc., may result in prosecution for violation of federal laws. When such material is discovered, the inmate may be subject to disciplinary action, the written material may be copied, and all material may be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for prosecution.
(d) The inmate is responsible for filling out the return address completely on envelopes provided for the inmate's use by the institution. If the inmate uses an envelope not provided by the institution, the inmate is responsible for ensuring that the envelope used contains all return address information listed on the envelope provided by the institution.
When correspondence is rejected, the Warden shall notify the sender in writing of the rejection and the reasons for the rejection. The Warden shall also give notice that the sender may appeal the rejection. The Warden shall also notify an inmate of the rejection of any letter addressed to that inmate, along with the reasons for the rejection and shall notify the inmate of the right to appeal the rejection. The Warden shall refer an appeal to an official other than the one who originally disapproved the correspondence. The Warden shall return rejected correspondence to the sender unless the correspondence includes plans for or discussion of commission of a crime or evidence of a crime, in which case there is no need to return the correspondence or give notice of the rejection, and the correspondence should be referred to appropriate law enforcement authorities. Also, contraband need not be returned to the sender.
(a) Institution staff shall open and inspect all incoming general correspondence. Incoming general correspondence may be read as frequently as deemed necessary to maintain security or monitor a particular problem confronting an inmate.
(b) Except for “special mail,” outgoing mail from a pretrial inmate may not be sealed by the inmate and may be read and inspected by staff.
(1) Outgoing mail from a sentenced inmate in a minimum or low security level institution may be sealed by the inmate and, except as provided for in paragraphs (c)(1)(i) through (iv) of this section, is sent out unopened and uninspected. Staff may open a sentenced inmate's outgoing general correspondence:
(i) If there is reason to believe it would interfere with the orderly running of the institution, that it would be threatening to the recipient, or that it would facilitate criminal activity;
(ii) If the inmate is on a restricted correspondence list;
(iii) If the correspondence is between inmates (see § 540.17); or
(iv) If the envelope has an incomplete return address.
(2) Except for “special mail,” outgoing mail from a sentenced inmate in a medium or high security level institution, or an administrative institution may not be sealed by the inmate and may be read and inspected by staff.
(d) The Warden may reject correspondence sent by or to an imate if it is determined detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the institution, to the protection of the public, or if it might facilitate criminal activity. Correspondence which may be rejected by a Warden includes, but is not limited to, correspondence which contains any of the following:
(1) Matter which is nonmailable under law or postal regulations;
(2) Matter which depicts, describes, or encourages activities which may lead to the use of physical violence or group disruption;
(3) Information of escape plots, of plans to commit illegal activities, or to violate Bureau rules or institution guidelines;
(4) Direction of an inmate's business (See § 541.13, Prohibited Act No. 408). An inmate, unless a pre-trial detainee, may not direct a business while confined.
This does not, however, prohibit correspondence necessary to enable an inmate to protect property and funds that were legitimately the inmate's at the time of commitment. Thus, for example, an inmate may correspond about refinancing an existing mortgage or sign insurance papers, but may not operate a mortgage or insurance business while in the institution.
(5) Threats, extortion, obscenity, or gratuitous profanity;
(6) A code;
(7) Sexually explicit material (for example, personal photographs) which by its nature or content poses a threat to an individual's personal safety or security, or to institution good order; or
(8) Contraband. (See § 500.1 of this chapter. A package received without prior authorization by the Warden is considered to be contraband.)
(a) The Warden may place an inmate on restricted general correspondence based on misconduct or as a matter of classification. Determining factors include the inmate's:
(1) Involvement in any of the activities listed in § 540.14(d);
(2) Attempting to solicit funds or items (e.g., samples), or subscribing to a publication without paying for the subscription;
(3) Being a security risk;
(4) Threatening a government official; or
(5) Having committed an offense involving the mail.
(b) The Warden may limit to a reasonable number persons on the approved restricted general correspondence list of an inmate.
(c) The Warden shall use one of the following procedures before placing an inmate on restricted general correspondence.
(1) Where the restriction will be based upon an incident report, procedures must be followed in accordance with inmate disciplinary regulations (part 541, subpart B of this chapter).
(2) Where there is no incident report, the Warden:
(i) Shall advise the inmate in writing of the reasons the inmate is to be placed on restricted general correspondence;
(ii) Shall give the inmate the opportunity to respond to the classification or change in classification; the inmate has the option to respond orally or to submit written information or both; and
(iii) Shall notify the inmate of the decision and the reasons, and shall advise the inmate that the inmate may appeal the decision under the Administrative Remedy Procedure.
(1) Correspond with the inmate's spouse, mother, father, children, and siblings, unless the correspondent is involved in any violation of correspondence regulations, or would be a threat to the security or good order of the institution;
(2) Request other persons also to be placed on the approved correspondence list, subject to investigation, evaluation, and approval by the Warden; with prior approval, the inmate may write to a proposed correspondence to obtain a release authorizing an investigation; and
(3) Correspond with former business associates, unless it appears to the Warden that the proposed correspondent would be a threat to the security or good order of the institution, or that the resulting correspondence could reasonably be expected to result in criminal activity. Correspondence with former business associates is limited to social matters.
(e) The Warden may allow an inmate additional correspondence with persons other than those on the inmate's approved mailing list when the correspondence is shown to be necessary and does not require an addition to the mailing list because it is not of an ongoing nature.
(a) The Warden shall permit an inmate in holdover status (i.e., enroute to a designated institution) to have correspondence privileges similar to those of other inmates insofar as practical.
(b) The Warden shall permit an inmate in segregation to have full correspondence privileges unless placed on restricted general correspondence under § 540.15.
An inmate may be permitted to correspond with an inmate confined in any other penal or correctional institution if the other inmate is either a member of the immediate family, or is a party or witness in a legal action in which both inmates are involved. Such correspondence may be approved in other exceptional circumstances, with particular regard to the security level of the institution, the nature of the relationship between the two inmates, and whether the inmate has other regular correspondence. The following additional limitations apply:
(a) Such correspondence at institutions of all security levels may always be inspected and read by staff at the sending and receiving institutions (it may not be sealed by the inmate); and
(1) The appropriate unit manager at each institution must approve of the correspondence if both inmates are housed in Federal institutions and both inmates are members of the same immediate family or are a party or witness in a legal action in which both inmates are involved.
(2) The Wardens of both institutions must approve of the correspondence if one of the inmates is housed at a non-Federal institution or if approval is being granted on the basis of exceptional circumstances.
(a) The Warden shall open incoming special mail only in the presence of the inmate for inspection for physical contraband and the qualification of any enclosures as special mail. The correspondence may not be read or copied if the sender is adequately identified on the envelope, and the front of the envelope is marked “Special Mail - Open only in the presence of the inmate”.
(b) In the absence of either adequate identification or the “special mail” marking indicated in paragraph (a) of this section appearing on the envelope, staff may treat the mail as general correspondence and may open, inspect, and read the mail.
(1) Except as provided for in paragraph (c)(2) of this section, outgoing special mail may be sealed by the inmate and is not subject to inspection.
(2) Special mail shall be screened in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section when the special mail is being sent by an inmate who has been placed on restricted special mail status.
(i) An inmate may be placed on restricted special mail status if the Warden, with the concurrence of the Regional Counsel, documents in writing that the special mail either has posed a threat or may pose a threat of physical harm to the recipient (e.g., the inmate has previously used special mail to threaten physical harm to a recipient).
(ii) The Warden shall notify the inmate in writing of the reason the inmate is being placed on restricted special mail status.
(iii) An inmate on restricted special mail status must present all materials and packaging intended to be sent as special mail to staff for inspection. Staff shall inspect the special mail material and packaging, in the presence of the inmate, for contraband. If the intended recipient of the special mail has so requested, staff may read the special mail for the purpose of verifying that the special mail does not contain a threat of physical harm. Upon completion of the inspection, staff shall return the special mail material to the inmate if the material does not contain contraband, or contain a threat of physical harm to the intended recipient. The inmate must then seal the special mail material in the presence of staff and immediately give the sealed special mail material to the observing staff for delivery. Special mail determined to pose a threat to the intended recipient shall be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement entity. Staff shall send a copy of the material, minus the contraband, to the intended recipient along with notification that the original of the material was forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement entity.
(iv) The Warden shall review an inmate's restricted special mail status at least once every 180 days. The inmate is to be notified of the results of this review. An inmate may be removed from restricted special mail status if the Warden determines, with the concurrence of the Regional Counsel, that the special mail does not threaten or pose a threat of physical harm to the intended recipient.
(v) An inmate on restricted mail status may seek review of the restriction through the Administrative Remedy Program.
(d) Except for special mail processed in accordance with paragraph (c)(2) of this section, staff shall stamp the following statement directly on the back side of the inmate's outgoing special mail: “The enclosed letter was processed through special mailing procedures for forwarding to you. The letter has neither been opened nor inspected. If the writer raises a question or problem over which this facility has jurisdiction, you may wish to return the material for further information or clarification. If the writer encloses correspondence for forwarding to another addressee, please return the enclosure to the above address.”
(a) Staff shall mark each envelope of incoming legal mail (mail from courts or attorneys) to show the date and time of receipt, the date and time the letter is delivered to an inmate and opened in the inmate's presence, and the name of the staff member who delivered the letter. The inmate may be asked to sign as receiving the incoming legal mail. This paragraph applies only if the sender has marked the envelope as specified in § 540.18.
(b) The inmate is responsible for advising any attorney that correspondence will be handled as special mail only if the envelope is marked with the attorney's name and an indication that the person is an attorney, and the front of the envelope is marked “Special Mail - Open only in the presence of the inmate”. Legal mail shall be opened in accordance with special mail procedures (see § 540.18).
(c) Grounds for the limitation or denial of an attorney's correspondence rights or privileges are stated in part 543, subpart B. If such action is taken, the Warden shall give written notice to the attorney and the inmate affected.
(d) In order to send mail to an attorney's assistant or to a legal aid student or assistant, an inmate shall address the mail to the attorney or legal aid supervisor, or the legal organization or firm, to the attention of the student or assistant.
(e) Mail to an inmate from an attorney's assistant or legal aid student or assistant, in order to be identified and treated by staff as special mail, must be properly identified on the envelope as required in paragraph (b) of this section, and must be marked on the front of the envelope as being mail from the attorney or from the legal aid supervisor.
(a) An inmate may write through “special mail” to representatives of the news media specified by name or title (see § 540.2(b)).
(b) The inmate may not receive compensation or anything of value for correspondence with the news media. The inmate may not act as reporter.
(c) Representatives of the news media may initiate correspondence with an inmate. Staff shall open incoming correspondence from representatives of the media and inspect for contraband, for its qualification as media correspondence, and for content which is likely to promote either illegal activity or conduct contrary to Bureau regulations.
(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (d), (e), (f), and (i) of this section, postage charges are the responsibility of the inmate. The Warden shall ensure that the inmate commissary has postage stamps available for purchase by inmates.
(b) Writing paper and envelopes are provided at no cost to the inmate. Inmates who use their own envelopes must place a return address on the envelope (see § 540.12(d)).
(c) Inmate organizations will purchase their own postage.
(d) An inmate who has neither funds nor sufficient postage and who wishes to mail legal mail (includes courts and attorneys) or Administrative Remedy forms will be provided the postage stamps for such mailing. To prevent abuses of this provision, the Warden may impose restrictions on the free legal and administrative remedy mailings.
(e) When requested by an inmate who has neither funds nor sufficient postage, and upon verification of this status by staff, the Warden shall provide the postage stamps for mailing a reasonable number of letters at government expense to enable the inmate to maintain community ties. To prevent abuses of this provision, the Warden may impose restrictions on the free mailings.
(f) Mailing at government expense is also allowed for necessary correspondence in verified emergency situations for inmates with neither funds nor sufficient postage.
(g) Inmates must sign for all stamps issued to them by institution staff.
(h) Mail received with postage due is not ordinarily accepted by the Bureau of Prisons.
(i) Holdovers and pre-trial commitments will be provided a reasonable number of stamps for the mailing of letters at government expense.
(j) Inmates may not be permitted to receive stamps or stamped items (e.g., envelopes embossed with stamps, postal cards with postage affixed) other than by issuance from the institution or by purchase from commissary.
(a) An inmate, at no cost to the government, may send correspondence by registered, certified, or insured mail, and may request a return receipt.
(b) An inmate may insure outgoing personal correspondence (e.g., a package containing the inmate's hobbycrafts) by completing the appropriate form and applying sufficient postage.
(1) In the event of loss or damage, any claim relative to this matter is made to the U.S. Postal Service, either by the inmate or the recipient. The U.S. Postal Service will only indemnify a piece of insured mail for the actual value of an item, regardless of declared value.
(2) Inmate packages forwarded as a result of institution administration are considered official mail, except as otherwise specified (for example, hobbycraft articles mailed out of the institution). Official mail is not insured. If such an item is subsequently lost or damaged in the mail process the inmate may file a tort claim with the Bureau of Prisons (see part 543, subpart C of this chapter).
(c) Certified mail is sent first class at the inmate's expense.
(d) An inmate may not be provided such services as express mail, COD, private carriers, or stamp collecting while confined.
Except as provided for in part 506 of this chapter, funds enclosed in inmate correspondence are to be rejected. Deposits intended for the inmate's commissary account must be mailed directly to the centralized commissary account (see 28 CFR part 506).
[69 FR 40317, July 2, 2004]
Staff shall open and inspect for contraband all undelivered mail returned to an institution by the Post Office before returning it to the inmate. The purpose of this inspection is to determine if the content originated with the inmate sender identified on the letter or package; to prevent the transmission of material, substances, and property which an inmate is not permitted to possess in the institution; and to determine that the mail was not opened or tampered with before its return to the institution. Any remailing is at the inmate's expense. Any returned mail qualifying as “special mail” is opened and inspected for contraband in the inmate's presence.
(a) Staff shall make available to an inmate who is being released or transferred appropriate Bureau of Prisons and U.S. Postal Service forms for change of address.
(b) Inmates are responsible for informing their correspondents of a change of address.
(c) Postage for mailing change of address cards is paid by the inmate.
(d) Except as provided in paragraphs (e) through (g) of this section, all mail received for a released or transferred inmate will be returned to the U.S. Postal Service for disposition in accordance with U.S. Postal Service regulations.
(e) Staff shall use all means practicable to forward special mail.
(f) Staff shall forward inmate general correspondence to the new address for a period of 30 days.
(g) Staff shall permit an inmate released temporarily on writ to elect either to have general correspondence held at the institution for a period not to exceed 30 days, or returned to the U.S. Postal Service for disposition.
(1) If the inmate refuses to make this election, staff at the institution shall document this refusal, and any reasons, in the inmate's central file. Staff shall return to the U.S. Postal Service all general correspondence received for such as inmate after the inmate's departure.
(2) If the inmate does not return from writ within the time indicated, staff shall return to the U.S. Postal Service all general correspondence being held for that inmate for disposition in accordance with postal regulations.