ROCKLAND – A Knox County judge has temporarily halted a crackdown on mail at state prisons that inmates contend violates their constitutional rights.

Justice Donald Alexander issued a temporary restraining order Monday that requires the state Corrections Department to retain prisoners’ mail until Oct. 10, two days after a scheduled hearing in the case.

The state now restricts mail that contains photocopied or computer-generated materials.

In the complaint filed by the the Long Timers Group at the Maine State Prison in Warren, one inmate argues the new policy violates his right to religious freedom.

Nadim Haque says he was denied materials more than a month, as well as access to law journal articles that were sent to him. He also claims he cannot keep a Muslim prayer calendar in his cell.

Another inmate, Aaron J. Miller, is challenging the state’s withholding of items it considers to be contraband. Court records indicate that a Bruce Springsteen compact disc and a University of Maine Cooperative Extension brochure were classified as contraband and withheld from Miller.

Andrews Campbell, a lawyer who represents the inmates, said the new mail policy is “ambiguous, irrational, confiscatory, excessively and needlessly restrictive … and is arbitrary and discriminatory in granting unfettered administrative discretion,” according to the lawsuit.

Associate Corrections Commissioner Denise Lord said the state updated its rules for inmates’ mail in an effort to clarify some portions of the policy.

The policy does not define “computer-generated,” but makes an exception for legal materials received through privileged correspondence.

The inmates’ request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled to be heard Oct. 8 at 9:30 a.m. in Lincoln County Superior Court in Wiscasset.

AP-ES-09-09-03 1005EDT



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