Reader: Delayed mail to prison; “mail is so much more than paper”

Hello, my name is Angelika Schauer and I have a loved one incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison.

I know to most people who are not impacted by incarceration they are just inmates, but to me as well as many others these men are family. Husbands, sons, brothers, fathers.

Mail at that facility is extremely backed up, and I’m talking MONTHS. Some of it straight up seems to vanish. This includes legal mail, property packages, as well as important forms and paperwork.

Within the past weeks I have sent to my loved one the following: A letter that contained a list of important addresses and phone numbers that he needs to have in his possession. He did not receive it. A copy of our Power of Attorney documents that he needs to have put in his file. He did not receive it. A CDCR 7385 medical release form that I need him to fill out so I’ll be notified in case something were to happen to him. He did not receive it. Legal advice that is crucial for him to have in order to prepare for his resentencing. He did not receive it. Writing material such as envelopes and stamps. He did not receive those either. Not to mention our personal written correspondence that has not been able to take place at all.

Cal. Code Regs. Tit. 15 § 3133 (a) (1) states: „[…] All First-Class Mail shall be delivered to the inmate as soon as possible, but not later than seven calendar days from receipt of the mail at the facility mailroom.“ This is clearly not the case here.

Now besides this being just inconvenient, it also adds a level of stress and anxiety to both mine and my loved one’s lives that impacts us every day. I’ll be honest I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this situation, since mail has always been our main way of communication.

While inquiring about this issue and bringing it to peoples’ attention, I got to talk to so many others who are impacted by the situation just as we are. I talked to a mother who told me she has given up on writing letters to her son, she said it’s no use anyway, he never receives them. I talked to wives who have not been able to send their husbands pictures of their children.

Staying in regular touch with their families is crucial to the incarcerated. It gives them a sense of normality, it makes them feel in touch with their families and the outside world. Mail is therefore a means to reduce violence on the inside, it makes people feel human and it makes them feel cared about. A handwritten letter can mean the world if you’re locked up.

Mail is so much more than just paper, both to those on the inside as well as to us out here.

The responsible parties do not seem to care or straight up lied too my face when I called them, telling me this is not true. Another time I called, I was told they’re processing certified mail first so that people are not able to create a timeline of how long mail really takes. Say what?! Well I think I’ve written enough. If this is of any interest to you, I’d appreciate it if you could look into this matter.

Thank you for your time.

Respectfully,

Angelika Schauer

5 thoughts on “Reader: Delayed mail to prison; “mail is so much more than paper”

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  1. To those who will seek to minimize this it sounds like it is not a matter of slow mail delivery that all of us on the outside are experiencing, it is a matter of no delivery of mail whatsoever. You might want to contact Corcoran and see if it is possible to hand deliver the documents to him for signing (not sure what yard he is on) and if not then I suggest that you have his attorney take the documents to him for signing. They normally do not refuse an inmate to meet with his attorney. In the meantime I suggest you continue working “with” Corcoran in good faith to find resolution to this problem. Good luck.

  2. I agree, I sent my loved one mail from back in early October and he just received it on November 17 thats insane.

  3. I have sent 4 letters including family pictures as early as Oct.16th that have still not been received by my loved one. I have called the Mail room and they told me, they are low staff and that’s why they are behind. However, there are days mail doesn’t even get to his yard at all. He tells me, the COs will say there was no mail at all, not just for him, but his ENTIRE yard. That makes no sense. There have been multiple days that mail has not been taken to his yard on 4B. He said COs have even stating the mail room isn’t filling the bags up. This is ridiculous and needs to get figured out.

    • I wonder if anyone has checked the status of mail being delivered on yards other than 4A or 4B? There should be no discrimination between yard levels when it comes to inmate’s rights regarding mail delivery.

  4. They do certified mail first because it is logged and delivered with legal mail so they can sign for it.
    Legal mail takes priority and if you delay a prisoner’s legal mail, especially if they have no attorney and miss a filing date, they are going to be mad, they are going to submit a grievance and they are going to try and sue the prison and the mailroom staff for chilling their access to the courts.

    Did you also stop to think that mail delivery may be slow from the post office since USPS slowed their transit times for all 1st class mail (your letters) and publications by 3 to 5 days longer and that due to their staffing and work load issues it is actually taking more like 10 or more days to deliver mail, if they deliver it at all and it is out of their control.

    Did you ask about their security protocols, especially if the mailroom is located behind the secure perimeter? Some prisons have to leave their mail locked overnight somewhere so ISU can have their dogs run through it, then after it is released by ISU, it goes through an X-ray scanner and is retrieved in the afternoon, just in time to go home since there’s often no overtime for mailrooms. That means it is taking 5 to 10 days to reach the PO Box then another 2 before it is even touched by mailroom.

    Then all legal out has to be logged, all legal in has to be logged, (an 8 hour job in itself) all outgoing mail by inmates has to be sorted and posted (average 3 to 4 hours to complete for an average size population, especially during lockdowns and no visiting since “mail is their only way to stay connected) so it can be taken to the post office (which is another 2 hour task).

    Do you think mailrooms are fully staffed, that people want to work in there, which is very physical and exhausting work by the way, for the little bit of pay they get while they see other office assistants sitting at their desks or chatting in the halls as they block mailroom as they try to push their mail carts through the institution?

    Why do you think mailroom staff has any intention of delaying or forbidding mail from inmates that they have to encounter everyday on the tiers? So they can be endlessly harassed and questioned by a move of angry inmates who at anytime can be and have been violent? Not to mention the officers who will also be angry at the mailroom because unhappy inmates makes for an unhappy day at work.

    They also have to take care of staff mail, and answer requests from inmates, have to answer grievances, phone calls from angry family members, and as a bonus, they get to go home feeling battered and like unaccomplished because when they go to work the next morning, it starts all over again.

    Obviously, I work in a CDCR mailroom, as matter of fact, I supervise one. I have two staff members, it’s been that way for 3 years now, and there is not enough time to get everything completed. We got down to 2 trays of mail on Friday and received 6 on Monday, most without housing locations on the mail so now we have to waste half the time looking up where the inmate is housed before we can even begin to search and send it out.

    I tell family members who say their mail is not getting delivered to put all their mail in one envelope (because the ones who call usually send multiple letters/cards a week) so that the mail will qualify for free tracking and to call me when it says it is delivered so I can look for it before I or my staff even leaves the post office and if not there, we can immediately provide them the tracking info and inquire about it. Then, I tell the caller that when I get it, I will personally deliver it to make sure they have it and to speak to the inmate to find out more details of the problem, and guess what? That is exactly what I do. I am not unsympathetic to theirs and your problems and I am aware of how important mail is to those guys during normal programming so I imagine it is more so when we are modified. However, we can only do what we can with the resources we are given. Administration is happy to fill the mailroom up with disgruntled officers under investigation whom may have an axe to grind with some of the inmates whose mail they are opening and while I have had those types removed from the mailroom, I don’t know that other supervisors keep watch like I do.

    I am also not saying that all mailrooms operate like mine does and I would guess that a lot don’t but I lose sleep too, I lost weight, hair, and a little self confidence every time I am belittled and have my character attacked based on assumptions made of me because I work in the mailroom.

    We’re not all the enemy is all I’m saying. I am the employee who notices when an inmate looks upset and will stop to ask them if they’re okay. If I read a letter where they are lashing out at their wife or gf because they’re not receiving mail and accusing them of not writing, I will search through every piece of mail in there and go down and tell them that the mail is delayed and hopefully will be able to give them something I found to eaze their anxiety because I know that is what they are feeling while they get thoughts of being cheated on or just left behind and forgotten about.

    Im a compassionate person and am not there to punish anybody and sometimes our best is not good enough and I apologize to you for what you have dealt with.

    I truly hope the staff at COR are doing their best. In 6 years, I’ve never seen anybody want to keep their mail for no reason. The only time we do that is when something is sent in that violates policy but honestly that just creates more work and is the last thing anybody wants to deal with.

    I hope your letters are now being received. It’s 4 months after your post and tbh, it almost seems like the post office has gotten more backed up and careless as we have days where we receive the other prisons mail and they get ours and sometimes we get mail addressed to people all over the city and you know who really doesn’t care about these concerns, the staff at the Post Office because after we complained about that, we got banned from going inside to get our mail. They make us wait outside until they bring it to us. They argue if they are confronted, our mail gets returned to us over and over for no reason except “no mail receptacle” even when that mail is addressed to a PO BOX we send to all the time.

    I had a lady call me to complain that her neighborhood didn’t get mail for a week. Imagine her surprise when she found out she was speaking to a prison mailroom. Since you have to call the prison and enter the mailroom extension to reach me, it can only be that somebody at the post office put her on hold and transferred to me on purpose so they didn’t have to take the call.

    People need to hold USPS more accountable because ultimately, it’s their job to provide timely and proper delivery of your mail.

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