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Amicus Brief: HRDC v. Baxter County

The Rutherford Institute has asked a federal appeals court to strike down an Arkansas county jail’s postcard-only policy that limits the mail prisoners can send and receive to postcards, arguing that the restriction violates the First Amendment.

In an amicus brief in HRDC v. Baxter County filed in conjunction with R Street Institute, the Clark-Fox Family Foundation, Arch City Defenders and Americans for Prosperity, The Rutherford Institute pointed to historic examples of prisoner communications—such as St. Paul’s epistles written from prison, the letters of Martin Luther King, Jr.,  and German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer—as examples of the kinds of writings that could be inhibited or prevented by the postcard-only rule.

Affiliate attorneys Mark Sableman, Michael L. Nepple, and Anthony F. Blum of Thompson Coburn assisted in advancing the arguments in the Human Rights Defense Center brief.

“Prisoners in Birmingham, Alabama, during the height of the civil rights movement, Nazi Germany, and the Roman Empire all had greater freedom in prisoner communications than prisoners in Arkansas are afforded,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail is perhaps the most famous prison letter of modern times. But that letter would not have been allowed had these postcard-only policies been in effect. Indeed, if King had been limited to postcards, at the typical postcard length of about 100 words, his treatise on the need for racial justice in America would have filled 70 postcards and taken nearly five months to mail out under the current Arkansas jail policy. Likewise, under this policy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer—imprisoned for challenging the Nazi regime—would never have been able to share his thoughts about faith, courage and tyranny, which were preserved in his letters to family and friends.”


September 20, 2019 • Rutherford Institute Challenges Arkansas Jail’s Postcard-Only Rule as Unconstitutional Infringement of Prisoners’ First Amendment Rights


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