New York Codes, Rules and Regulations
Chapter VIII - Institutional Programs
Part 720 - Inmate Correspondence Program
Section 720.4 - Incoming mail

Current through Register Vol. 44, No. 38, September 21, 2022

(a) Inspection of incoming correspondence.

(1) Before opening, incoming mail should be checked to make sure that the addressee can be accurately identified and is currently at the facility. If the addressee is no longer at the facility, the mail shall be forwarded in accordance with Part 722 of this Title. All incoming general correspondence must have a clearly identifiable name of sender and return address. A letter which does not have a return address will not be delivered to the inmate. It will be considered contraband and handled in accordance with departmental directive.

(2) All incoming general correspondence will be opened and inspected for cash, checks, money orders, printed or photocopied materials or contraband. The inmate's presence is not required during the inspection of incoming general correspondence. See Part 721 of this Title for the procedure to be followed for the opening of privileged correspondence and Part 712 of this Title for publications deemed to be unacceptable.

(b) Monies received. When, in the course of inspection, cash, checks, or money orders from a clearly identifiable source are found, they shall be removed and credited to the inmate's account, as appropriate. A copy of a check or money order made out to an inmate may be given to that inmate if the word "CANCELED," "COPY" or "VOID" is stamped or written across its face. If this has not been done, the copy will be returned to the sender. All anonymously received monies will be considered contraband and handled accordingly.

(c) Printed or photocopied materials.

(1) When, in the course of inspection, printed or photocopied materials are found, the entire contents of such correspondence may be delayed through the correspondence unit for up to six days while the materials are subject to media review guidelines (see Part 712 of this Title).

(2) A limit of five pages of printed or photocopied materials (an individual newspaper clipping will be considered one page) may be received within a piece of regular correspondence (except as provided in paragraphs [3] and [4] of this subdivision). In order to facilitate media review, pages or clippings must not be taped, glued, or pasted together or to other papers.

(3) Not to exceed once every four months, an inmate may make a written request to the superintendent to receive in excess of five pages of printed or photocopied legal papers specifically related to the inmate's current legal matter (e.g., legal brief or trial transcript relating to the inmate's active case) within a piece of regular correspondence. The inmate shall make the request in advance, specifically identifying the legal papers, including the approximate number of pages, and state why they cannot be obtained via the facility law library or privileged correspondence (e.g., from a court, attorney, or the New York State Law Library). If approved, the piece of correspondence must be received within 30 days thereafter. Upon timely receipt, it shall be processed in accordance with this section and shall not be deemed privileged correspondence.

(4) The five page limit on printed or photocopied materials shall not apply to incoming mail from the entities listed in section 721.2(b)(2) through (6) of this Title.

(d) Contraband. When, in the course of inspection, contraband is found, it shall be removed and given special handling according to type:

(1) Third party mail. Defined as correspondence from a party who is not identified as the sender in the return address. The facility shall return the entire correspondence to the sender with a letter explaining that third-party mail is considered contraband, is against department rules and, therefore, will not be delivered to the inmate.

(2) Unauthorized items. Such items shall be either returned to the sender at the expense of the inmate, or otherwise disposed of. Such will be the choice of the inmate and accomplished at the inmate's expense. An inmate should be allowed 30 days to obtain funds to pay the cost of disposing of the contraband. If, after 30 days, the inmate is unable to pay for disposal of the contraband, it will be donated or destroyed.

(3) Personal identifying information. Any material which appears to contain personal identifying information (e.g., social security number, home address, private e-mail address or home telephone number) belonging to any person who is not a member of the inmate's immediate family shall be examined. If the information identifies a present or former employee of the department or a person presently or formerly employed in a department facility, or a member of such person's household, it shall be withheld for investigation unless it is determined that the inmate has authorization from the superintendent to receive such correspondence, or the personal identifying information pertains to a member of the inmate's immediate family.

(4) Crime and sentence information on other inmates. Any material which contains crime and sentence information on any other inmate shall be confiscated and delivered to the superintendent.

(5) Illegal items. Illegal items, e.g., drugs, weapons, etc., shall be forwarded to the security office, with appropriate chain-of-custody documentation. When appropriate, the State Police or other police agency shall be notified.

(6) Items received anonymously. Such items (e.g., cash, checks, money orders, etc.) will be confiscated, labeled, and forwarded to the fiscal office for safekeeping. An investigation will be conducted in an attempt to verify the source. If, after proper investigation, no source is identified, the monies will be turned over to the State Comptroller as miscellaneous receipts.

(7) Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) financing statements. Any UCC article 9 form, including but not limited to any financing statement (UCC1, UCC1Ad, UCC1AP, UCC3, UCC3Ad, UCC3AP, UCC1CAd), correction statement (UCC5) or information request (UCC11), whether printed, copied, typed or hand written, or any document concerning a scheme involving an inmate's "strawman," "House Joint Resolution 192 of 1933," the "Redemptive Process," "Acceptance for Value," or document indicating copyright of an inmate's name is prohibited absent prior written authorization from the superintendent. All such material and any other material contained within the correspondence shall be examined by the superintendent in consultation with counsel's office and may be withheld for investigation. An inmate may request authorization from the superintendent to receive specific materials by providing the superintendent with specific, legitimate legal reasons why such materials are required.

(e) Reading of incoming correspondence. Incoming general correspondence, other than inmate-to-inmate letters and inmate business mail, will not be read unless there is evidence that the correspondence may contain one or more of the following:

(1) plans for sending contraband in or out of the facility;

(2) plans for criminal activity, including escape; or

(3) information which, if communicated, would create a clear and present danger to the safety of persons and/or the security and good order of the facility.

(f) Authorization to read incoming correspondence. Written authorization from the facility superintendent to read incoming correspondence must be placed in the inmate's file specifying the reasons such action is considered necessary, and whether all mail or certain correspondence shall be read.

(1) Such authorization shall be for a 60-day period, subject to renewal by the superintendent.

(2) The superintendent shall request documentation from the person recommending inspection to determine that there are sufficient grounds for reading the mail, that the reasons for reading the mail are related to the legitimate interests of safety, security, and order, and that the reading is no more extensive than is necessary to further these interests.

(g) Withholding of correspondence.

(1) When incoming general correspondence is withheld by the designated staff member for any of the above listed reasons, notification shall be sent to the sender and the intended correspondent of the action taken and the reasons therefore, unless doing so would interfere with an ongoing investigation.

(2) The sender and inmate may appeal this action by writing the superintendent.

(3) Correspondence with a particular person may be withheld, by the disposition of a superintendent's hearing, where the inmate has been involved in improper conduct in connection with correspondence with such person.

(h) Mail received for inmates no longer at the facility. Mail received at a facility from which an inmate has been transferred or released shall be handled in accordance with the procedures set forth in Part 722 of this Title, Forwarding Inmate Mail.

(i) Inmates are authorized to retain all of their personal correspondence, subject only to the limitations expressed in Directive #4913, "Inmate Property," and any other applicable rule or regulation.

(j) Incoming mail that is deemed to constitute a form of gambling, lottery, sweepstakes, or chain letter operation is prohibited from coming into a facility. Such mail shall be stamped " RETURN TO SENDER" upon entering the facility.

(k) When an inmate's incoming correspondence is stamped "RETURN TO SENDER" or something similar, the correspondence unit should take precautions to ensure that the letter is not an attempt to circumvent the department's inmate-to-inmate correspondence procedures. When such mail is opened to check for contraband, it shall be inspected to determine if it was written by the inmate to whom it is being "returned." If it was not written by that inmate, it shall be withheld.

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