Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


The First Amendment protects not only our right to share ideas, but also to some extent, our right to choose the specific method by which we share them. Generally speaking, these protections apply to inmates’ rights to communicate with those outside of prison. However, the protection of those rights must be balanced with the penological interests of prisons and jails. Electronic messaging has now become a standard form of communication within most American homes and businesses. Accordingly, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has implemented the TRULINCS program, a program which allows inmates to communicate with those outside of prison through electronic messaging. The Washington State Department of Corrections has installed JPay kiosks in state-operated facilities that allow inmates to send and receive electronic messages. However, most state prison systems and county jails currently do not offer inmates the option of receiving or sending electronic messages. The Supreme Court of the United States has indicated that prisoners have a constitutional right to send and receive mail, and some circuit courts have extended that right to telephone use. This Article examines the foundational aspects of free speech in prison settings and how the evolution of communication might affect the breadth of an inmate’s free speech rights. This Article argues that, in certain situations, the First Amendment should protect inmates’ interests in sending and receiving emails.

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