IDOC Grievance Request for Correspondence Box

Per Illinois Department of Corrections, (IDOC) administrative directives, all IDOC inmates are supposed to be given access to and use of a Correspondence Box in which to secure and store all their needed legal papers and correspondence while in prison. The purpose of the box is to ensure that inmates have access to their documents needed to prepare for and pursue their legal court cases and appeals.

If IDOC does not allow inmates to store and access their legal documents, then IDOC is interfering with and violating state and federal laws which require IDOC to allow inmates the ability to pursue legal remedies while in prison.

It cannot be stressed how vitally important it is to inmates that they have access to the courts. Too many times, once sentenced and imprisoned, post-conviction relief is the only opportunity inmates will have to challenge any inequity or injustice committed in their case, and perhaps shorten the term of their imprisonment.

Below is a copy of the content of the September 15, 2009, grievance Richard Wanke was required to file at the Vandalia Correctional Center in order to obtain the Correspondence Box he needs for his appellate review:

Brief Summary of Grievance: I have been denied appropriate storage and possession of needed legal materials, here at Vandalia CC. By denying me storage and possession of all needed legal papers, for my upcoming appellate appearances, IDOC and Vandalia CC are effectively denying me access to the courts as ascribed in Bounds v. Smith 97 S.CT.  1941 (1977) and other legal sources (and IDOC’s own directives).  On June 3, 2009 when arriving at Vandalia CC I was given only two choices: have all my legal papers destroyed or send all of my trial transcripts, court documents, collected court casework, legal correspondence, case files and other relevant materials for defending myself at the appellate level; home. I was told that it was “policy”. Also, that all legal work was considered “excess legal work”. Other inmates at Personal Property were given form VAN0004 to turn down claiming of their Correspondence Box. I asked for that form and was denied. The officer stated, that “no one at Vandalia is allowed a property box.” I am now without access to my paperwork needed to adequately and effectively work with my attorney on upcoming legal matters. I originally grieved this to Counselor P____ in June 2009 (no response) and twice with Counselor S_____ in July 2009 (no response).  On August 11, w009, I spoke with newly appointed IDOC director, Michael Randle on this matter and he said, he was aware of the problem and was “interested” and “concerned” and “would look into the matter.” On this day he was accompanied by Lt. S_____ and Warden M____. On August 18, 2009, I again spoke with Warden M____ on my needs for my legal work, stating that I understood some delay, but “without critical paperwork, transcripts it means that defending myself and my access to the appellate court is hampered severely”. I asked what was being done. Warden M____ said, “you shouldn’t have been transferred here and you may be transferred…” On Labor Day weekend of this year, I again spoke with Warden M____ briefly and though he acknowledged my concerns, he had no time to speak with me. I have spoken with my current counselor Mr. B____ on this issue and decided to write this grievance. Vandalia CC has a “no correspondence box policy” which severely limits all inmate ability to store much needed legal work. This policy makes it difficult for inmates, myself included, to adequately prepare for pending legal issues. I respectfully request that this policy be changed and that inmates at Vandalia CC be allowed to have Correspondence Boxes, if they so request. Thank-you.

Relief Requested: Correspondence Boxes should be made available to any inmate requesting a box. Provisions should be made for storage, check-in and check-out for additional boxes needed in close proximity to the Law Library. Ease of access is a must.

Richard’s grievance was granted on September 18, 2009, as follows:

Facts reviewed: Offender Wanke states that he is being denied appropriate storage for his legal material. Offender Wanke would like correspondence boxes be made available for him and other inmates that request the box. Offender feels it needs to be in close proximity of the Law Library.

This grievance was investigated by the Grievance Committee. The Institutional Directives state that “upon an offender’s request, a correspondence box shall be issued to the offender and documented unless a correspondence box was transferred in with the offender.

Recommendation: Based on the total review of all available information, it is the recommendation of the Grievance Committee that this grievance be affirmed. The Offender should be issued a correspondence box upon request. The Offender should be given reasonable access to the correspondence box.
_________________________________________________
Richard is concerned that his access to his correspondence box may still be jeopardized because he is now the to the only inmate at Vandalia CC who has been allowed a correspondence box. Every time he requests to access his correspondence box or receives legal mail, the prison guards have him go through an elaborate ceremony before allowing him access to the box. Prior to filing his grievance, Richard contacted the John Howard Association of Illinois, an organization which works on issues related to conditions in Illinois prisons. You can visit their website at http://www.john-howard.org/. They are a great organization to help through any support you can offer them. They requested a copy of Richard’s grievance. Here is a copy of Richard’s follow-up letter to them:

 

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