Federal inmates can now subscribe to free or paid news services through the use of a monitored email service. This enables inmates to stay abreast of local, state, national, and issue-specific news of interest to them. No longer must they dig through recycling bins at their prison facility to locate a week-old USA Today or New York Times. Now, they can have news delivered to their inbox on a daily, bi-weekly, or weekly basis. This article describes how these services work, what types of news they furnish, and their costs (if any), and presents a list of such reputable email news services.
Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System
The Federal Bureau of Prisons allows inmates to utilize a monitored computer service called the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS). As reported at http://prisoneducation.com and http://prisonlawblog.com, this system allows inmates to manage their trust fund account transactions, stay abreast through an electronic bulletin board system for inmates, send messages to staff members, browse and buy MP3 song files, manage outside contacts’ addresses and phone numbers, print mailing labels for letters, send money to those outside of prison, and even utilize a monitored email service.
Monitored Email Through Corrlinks
The TRULINCS monitored email service allows authorized inmates to email with pre-screened community members. All the inmate has to do is add the outside contact’s name, postal mailing address, and email address into their contacts folio via a TRULINCS computer and a system-generated email is sent to the outside contact with information on how to become an authorized contact. After the outside contact goes to the Corrlinks website, they input a security code contained within the system-generated message and they are then allowed to email with the inmate in question.
This monitored email service is very basic. Inmates can only email with approved outside contacts, who must log into the Corrlinks website in order to send or receive messages to the specific federal prisoner. Messages are limited to 13,000 characters in length and can consist only of plain black text. Attachments, photos, videos, and other media are not permitted.
While inmates are charged five cents per minute for their time within the TRUINCS email folio, outside contacts are not charged for electronic communications with federal inmates (this is generally not the case for those who email with state prisoners through the Corrlinks email service). All messages are subject to staff monitoring and misuse of the service can result in disciplinary sanctions, including loss of email, telephone, visitation, commissary, and so on. Some inmates who have abused the service – or who have been convicted of computer crimes or have specialized knowledge of computers that could be construed as a security risk – have had permanent bans placed upon them, barring them from use of the public messaging system altogether.
How News Services Operate Through TRULINCS
Just as members of the general public can email with approved federal inmates, so can organizations and businesses. These organizations can provide news gathering and distribution services to interested inmates. Since there is no limit to the number of inmate contacts that an outside Corrlinks contact can have – or to the number of emails that they can send – they are free to create a single email (or several) and send it to all of their incarcerated contacts at once. Thus news dissemination is as simple as creating a single email, selecting a number of federal inmate contacts, and hitting “Send.”
Generally speaking, such organizations are not permitted by TRULINCS or Corrlinks policies to charge for this service (or to conduct any sort of business through it), although the details of such a matter is outside of the scope of this article. Simply put, these organizations are free to collect news articles or create text-based email newsletters and send them to their authorized incarcerated contacts. Some such organizations have over 1,000 federal inmate subscribers.
To many inmates, these services are their only meaningful way of staying in contact with the outside world.
Top Three TRULINCS/Corrlinks News Services for Federal Prisoners
While a number of such news services are advertised for federal prisoners, many appear to be smaller, money-making initiatives. For federal prisoners, who make on average $10-$20 per month, their rates are simply inappropriate, not to mention ideologically crass. Instead of presenting a list of such organizations, I present the three most firmly established, free or close-to-free TRULINCS/Corrlinks news services:
Prison Education and Prison Law News Service is a joint service of http://prisoneducation.com and http://prisonlawblog.com. This free email news service sends incarcerated subscribers updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. All updates are focused on prison education, prison law, or prisoners’ rights. A healthy amount of the content is also provided through a syndication agreement with MSN News. In order to subscribe, federal inmates should add the following contact information to their contact list: Prison Law Electronic Updates, firstname.lastname@example.org, 3900 Pelandale Avenue, Box 319, Modesto, CA 95366.
Prisology News Updates is a joint service of Prisology, a national criminal justice reform organization, and the Law Offices of Jeremy Gordon, a noted federal criminal defense attorney. This free email news service provides inmate subscribers with a weekly newsletter, Federal Bureau of Prisons population report, and additional articles and legislative updates right in their TRULINCS inboxes. Where the Prisology News Update service differs from others is that they actually enlist prisoners to help with their initiatives. This includes a quarterly scholarship contest (winners receive a free college correspondence course through Adams State University), outreach to lawmakers and the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a blog (BOP Blog) that prisoners can email their posts to for free publication, and much more. In order to subscribe, federal prisoners should add the following to their contact list: Prisology News Updates, email@example.com, 215 W. Franklin Street, Ste. 100, Waxahachie, TX 75165.
Access Legal Aide News Updates is one of the more established TRULINCS/Corrlinks news services for inmates, albeit one which charges inmates $1 per month for access – a small fee for a daily news service. This service emails federal inmates all of the blog posts made at Sentencing.Typepad.com”, which cover everything about prison law and criminal justice. All in all, this is a very broad offering of content that is usually out of reach to prisoners due to lack of internet access. Prisoners in federal custody can subscribe by adding the following to their TRULINCS contact list: Access Legal Aide News Updates, firstname.lastname@example.org, P.O. Box 30407, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
A Connection to the Outside World
Studies have consistently shown that the more connected to the outside world inmates are, the lower their rate of recidivism. This has a lot to do with connections to positive family members and friends, who can help the inmate post-release. A less studied component of recidivism concerns a person’s introduction and integration into the world of prison culture, a culture based on many anti-social tendencies, including a quick trigger to violence.
While a prison news service such a Prisology’s cannot mitigate all – or even many – of the negative effects of incarceration, it can help inmates by grounding them in the real world and helping them to stay abreast of issues which will one day become relevant to their lives again. And this has to count for something – for taxpayers and prisoners alike.