RIVERSIDE (CNS) - A Riverside County lawmaker's bill seeking to authorize correctional officers to inspect prisoners' outgoing mail -- and stop it from leaving a facility -- to ensure that correspondence does not reach victims in violation of a protective order is on its way to the Senate floor.
Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Palm Desert, said SB 1146 is intended to ``protect crime victims from being harassed by mail sent to them by prison and jail inmates.''
``Crime victims have been through enough without allowing the person who caused them harm to continue to traumatize them through the mail,'' the lawmaker said. The Senate Committee on Public Safety unanimously approved the legislation Tuesday, clearing it for review by the entire chamber.
Under existing law, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation staff are permitted to open and vet most incoming and outgoing correspondence to ensure inmates are not planning an escape, attempting to foment violence or receiving contraband.
However, according to a non-partisan Senate analysis of Stone's proposal, there is no clearly defined provision authorizing corrections officials to intercept and hold mail when it may violate a criminal protective order or restraining order.
Victims who are under protective orders can notify corrections officials that they have received mail from a convict or jail detainee and request to have the practice halted. But state law doesn't specifically recognize the authority of an officer to do so, according to the analysis.
If Stone's bill becomes law, inmates convicted of restraining order or protective order violations via mail could be charged with a misdemeanor offense and fined up to $5,000.
The Riverside Sheriffs' Association is actively supporting the legislation.