June 28, 2001
Mr. Marty Baron
The Miami Herald
One Herald Plaza
Miami, FL 33132
Dear Mr. Baron:
Your June 25 editorial, "Let Prison Inmates Type," omits a great deal of information about the Department of Corrections' policy to end inmate access to typewriters and/or typing services to prepare legal documents and legal mail.
The United States District Court in Jacksonville issued a Final Order in the Hooks case on December 8, 2000, and while this order requires us to continue operation of law libraries, it does not require that we provide inmates access to typewriters and typing services. Apparently, Mr. Peter Siegel of the Florida Justice Institute agrees - as Ms. Lesley Clark, a Miami Herald reporter, states in her June 22 article.
As you know, the department spent approximately $50,000 a year to maintain the typewriters and typing services for inmates. That's $50,000 that can be used for book purchases and general library programs that benefit all inmates, not just the small number who used the typing service.
Our purpose is to protect the public. Providing inmates with typewriters, and especially computer systems equipped with word processing software and printers, creates significant security problems. Inmates have used the equipment to create gambling paraphernalia, and there have been instances in Florida and other states where such equipment has been used to forge departmental memoranda, court orders, and fictitious IRS returns and income statements to secure illegal tax refunds.
Eliminating inmate access to typewriters and typing services will not deny any inmate access to the courts. At the time this policy was established, a majority of our inmates already had no access to typewriters or typing services - inmates in the 48% of institutions that did not provide it, inmates at work camps and road prisons, inmates in confinement at all institutions, and inmates at all work release centers - yet there is no evidence that any of these inmates have been adversely affected in any way.
I do and will continue to ensure the legal rights of inmates are protected while in the care and custody of the Department of Corrections. If you need additional information or clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Michael W. Moore