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Wyco jail inmates sue over mail policy

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) -- Two inmates at the Wyandotte County jail have filed a federal lawsuit accusing the sheriff of violating their rights by limiting their mail to post-cards only.

The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., is seeking class-action status and an injunction against the policy.

The sheriff's department did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

In the lawsuit, inmates Tyrell Jackson and Randall Chapman say the Wyandotte County Adult Detention Center restricts inmates to sending and receiving correspondence on postcards no larger than 5 inches by 7 inches, with the exception of "official mail," which includes mail to and from lawyers.

The lawsuit contends the post-card only policy violates the civil rights of inmates and their family and friends.

"Writing private letters is important to inmates and their friends and families because it allows them to stay connected and to express -- at length and in detail -- their private concerns about family relationships, health problems, and financial issues, among other things," Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU Foundation of Kansas, said in a statement.

"If this policy had been in place in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. could not have sent his now famous letter from the Birmingham Jail. This postcard-only policy punishes inmates as well as their friends and family for no good purpose," Bonney said.

The ACLU has contacted three other county jails in Kansas recently about their post-card only mail policy, Bonney said. Allen and Atchison counties agreed to change the policy to allow letters. Leavenworth County is considering the change, he said.