DENVER — An inmate at the nation's most secure prison has won a lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Prisons' restrictions on the types of reading materials inmates are allowed to receive by mail.
Mark Jordan, 30, who is expected to be released in 2048 from the Supermax prison for bank robbery and the June 1999 stabbing death of a fellow inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, sued the agency in 2003, claiming his rights were violated when certain materials he was sent by mail were denied to him.
He claimed a 2003 prison regulation was unconstitutional, and on Oct. 26, U.S. District Judge Phillip Figa agreed, saying it was too broad.
Jordan sued after prison officials refused to deliver to him an Internet printout of a 120-page series of essays titled "Justice Denied." He said he and other inmates do not have access to the Internet, and receiving the printouts was the only way he could read the material. He also was refused mail containing photocopies of magazine articles and newspaper clippings.
Prison officials said the materials were kept from Jordan under the 2003 regulation, which prohibited inmates from receiving soft-cover publications unless they were sent directly from the publisher, a book club or a book store.
Figa said under standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court, the 2003 regulation was unconstitutional. Earlier this year, the regulation was changed to allow inmates to receive newspaper or magazine clippings from noncommercial sources if a review determined they posed no threat to security.
"The evidence presented establishes that such items are no more likely to serve as vehicles for the introduction of contraband into the prison than handwritten letters of similar length," Figa wrote. "The regulation ... does not meet the (Supreme Court's standards) and is thus arbitrary and capricious based on the administrative record."
He said unbound pages such as clippings, photocopies or Internet printouts should be treated the same as personal letters and other mail inmates are allowed to receive.