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As I See It

Christmas in jail

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Imagine if you were behind bars. What would keep you going through the darkest days? Probably correspondence with family and friends. That could include hearing a comforting voice on the phone or getting a letter from your spouse or child. But in La Crosse County, both of those things are nearly impossible. The La Crosse jail has a policy preventing inmates from receiving physical mail while they are behind bars. Instead, they use an e-messaging system, so no hand-drawn pictures by the kids, no photos they can hold in their hand. And using the e-messaging system requires payment in the form of stamps those on the outside purchase. Want to include a photo? That costs extra. The Oneida County jail had a similar policy, but that has now been overturned by leaders there. They were under pressure from the ACLU of Wisconsin, which argued “Mail should be fully accessible to incarcerated people, and their ability to stay in touch with others should not depend on how much money they have.” Now the ACLU is targeting the La Crosse County jail, asking them to change their mail policies. Even those incarcerated should have the ability to hold a picture their child drew, rather than some impersonal, electronic communication.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Colleen LeBlanc

    December 22, 2021 at 7:58 am

    Good. The policies need revision. It’s always been a ‘money game’ for inmates to have access to family and supportive friends. This is not a ‘corrective’ measure but punitive and costly to families who try to buy methods to contact those inside. How about becoming more humane LaCrosse County?

    • Jim

      December 22, 2021 at 4:01 pm

      Could not agree more. As a former correctional officer I can tell you mail has a effect on behavior. Also the cost of a phone call is theivery.

  2. Randy Knapp

    December 22, 2021 at 10:31 pm

    Thank you Scott Robert Shaw. I gave this same information months ago to Brad Williams and never heard back. Plus every phone call is over $7.00 for less than 5 minutes. And if they are in the 10 day quarantine, which every new incarcerated person is, they can only call out with Securis as a collect call for a local call. The e-messaging is not available when they are in quarantine as well.

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