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Saturday April 19th 2014

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ACLU Sues Sheriff The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Florida Justice Institute (FJI) filed on September 21 a class action lawsuit against Santa Rosa County Sheriff Wendell Hall.

The suit claims that the new postcard-only policy (implemented July 26) for communication between jail inmates and families is unconstitutional. The ACLU and FJI are asking the court to order Hall to cease the unconstitutional practice of restricting jail inmates’ ability to communicate with family and friends by limiting their mail to short, publicly viewable messages on postcards.

ACLU attorney Benjamin Stevenson tells IN he hopes there can be an “amicable resolution,” but notes the current policy affects more than just the prisoners.
“Inmates and their friends and families ought to be able to send and receive letters. This needlessly punishes not only inmates…some who haven’t even been convicted…but also their friends and families.”

Three former inmates brought forth the suit against the Sheriff. They represent a fluid population of approximately 500 people who are inmates at any one time in the Santa Rosa County jail, according to the ACLU.

Hall has defended the policy, stating that his inmates enjoy all the benefits and freedoms “dictated by law.” The SRCSO estimates that the policy saves $6,000 a year in postage fees.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan refused to comment on the ACLU lawsuit or the SRCSO.

Here is the current policy from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office regarding prison mail:
“The policy of the Escambia Sheriff’s Office is to provide mail privileges to inmates.  Inmates are encouraged to maintain general and legitimate correspondence with family and other persons immediately concerned with the inmate’s welfare.”
—812.1.0.1

Mail service will be provided Monday through Friday.  Incoming and outgoing mail will be distributed within 24 hours excluding weekends and holidays.
—812.1.0.2

Incoming and outgoing mail will be handled without delay.  Mail will be received only through the facilities (FCAC 12.06).
—812.1.0.3

Incoming mail will not be limited nor will a list of correspondents be maintained (FCAC 12.08).  Exceptions may result from documented security or administrative management concerns.
—812.1.0.4

Correspondence between inmates housed in the detention facilities or the Escambia County Road Prison will not be permitted.
1. This requirement is necessary to:
a.  Ensure the orderly, safe, and secure operation of the detention facilities
b. Ensure contraband is not passed or received via the US Mail
c. Guard against activities or actions which may jeopardize the secure confinement of any inmate
d. Prevent collaboration of inmate co-defendants.
2. Exceptions may be granted to inmates having immediate family members incarcerated in the facilities at the same time.  Immediate family members are defined as:
a. Husband or wife
b. Mother or father
c. Brothers or sisters
d. Sons or daughters
3. Inmates wishing to correspond with immediate family members in the facilities must submit requests to the Programs/Counseling staff using the Inmate Request/Refusal Form.
a. The Programs Coordinator will verify family status and will stamp approved or disapproved on the envelope.
b. Approved correspondence between incarcerated family members will be via US Mail only.

Guns At The Bus Stop The Escambia County School District had to beef up security at one of its schools earlier this month following threats at a bus stop that ended with gunfire.
“A vehicle came by with suspect in it who showed gun to one of the students (at the bus stop),” a source at the school tells IN. “He then made a threat to him and drove off and fired off a few rounds.”

Following the incident at the intersection of Algiers Street and Bridgedale Road, the suspect then went to Escambia High School to confront the student in class, instigating a physical fight before fleeing school grounds.

According to the Escambia Sheriff’s Office report, the suspect is not a student at Escambia or any other school in the county.
“We haven’t seen him before,” says the source. “Apparently there had been some sort of confrontation at the (Pensacola High School/Pine Forest High School) football game where he had come up and made a threat to him.”

District officials received word that the suspect would be attending a pep rally at Escambia on Sept. 17; prompting an increase in security on school grounds. That threat never panned out.
While threats of violence and signs of neighborhood gang activity are not uncommon in Escambia schools, firearms are. What made this incident unusual is how quickly it happened, within 30 minutes or an hour of the bus stop altercation.

Aquarium Group Wants Signatures In August, The Aquarium For Pensacola group finished 8th out of 273 entries in the Pepsi “Do Good for the Gulf Coast” contest.     Although the group didn’t win, group president Bill Young believes enough support exists to create a public survey that can be presented to local government officials.

“We are seeking volunteers to help disseminate 5,000 survey forms (35,000 signatures) to businesses and go to events or venues such as the upcoming DeLuna Festival or any place of their choosing to complete the survey forms,” he says in an e-mail.

Young has been pushing for a plan that would construct a $15 million aquarium at the site of the downtown sewage treatment plant. The plan calls for use of the existing ECUA plant holding tanks to be retrofitted for aquarium facility.

ECUA has previously stated it plans on selling the property and selling its existing equipment.