E-mail now among Conrad Black’s luxuries

E-mail now among Conrad Black’s luxuries

Conrad Black’s recent missive to the Canadian Press, much bruited upon by this blog over the Easter weekend, reveals the weirdly Janus-faced attitude that the United States adopts toward the free speech of the two million of its own citizens (reportedly the highest rate of incarceration per capita of any nation on earth) it now imprisons.

The precise process for how Black’s e-mail was sent is unclear. However, an official at Coleman confirms the facility is equipped to take part in a U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons pilot program called Trulincs, or Trust Fund Limited Inmate Communication System.

“It’s not access to the Internet and it’s not direct,” said bureau spokeswoman Traci Billingsley from Washington, who added incoming and outgoing messages are vetted before being transmitted.

“It’s all computer-generated, it’s held, and then it’s forwarded out, and it can only go to individuals on their approved e-mail list,” she added. “It stays on a bureau prison server, so it never goes out (directly) on the Internet. There’s no Internet access.”

On one hand, prison e-mail seems like the wise and benign extension of a basic American right (what could be more fundamental in seeking to rehabilitate the criminal mind?). A quick survey, however, of a Bureau of Prisons FAQ explaining the system quickly reveals the other side of the coin:

Who funds Trulincs?

No taxpayer dollars are used for this service. Funding is provided entirely by the Inmate Trust Fund, which is maintained by profits from inmate purchases of commissary products, telephone services, and the fees inmates pay for using Trulincs.

Is correspondence monitored?

Yes; all correspondence is subject to monitoring. Inmates consent to monitoring when they agree to participate in the program. Contacts consent to monitoring when they approve corresponding with the inmate and are notified each time they receive correspondence from the inmate.

Are there rules?

Correspondence may not jeopardize the safety, security, or orderly operation of the correctional facility, or the protection of the public; exceed 13,000 characters (approximately two pages); or have attachments. Correspondence that jeopardizes the safety, security, or orderly operation of the correctional facility, or the protection of the public or exceeds the 13,000 character limit will be rejected. Any attachments sent with electronic messages will be stripped and not delivered to the inmate.

Now we’re talking. Prisoners in the American system are by definition banished from the regime of rights and freedoms from which they have strayed. They are being as much punished as rehabilitated. Therefore, it’s important to point out that no tax money—hard earned by law-abiding citizens—is wasted on these miscreants. And, of course, the criminals’ e-mails are closely “monitored” to ensure public safety.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Orwell said it in Nineteen Eighty-Four and, for the moment, Conrad Black, courtesy the United States of America, seems to be living it.

• Frequently Asked Questions [TRULINCS] • Conrad Black says prison life ‘safe and civilized’ [Chicago Sun-Times]• Former press baron Conrad Black says he’s ‘doing fine’ in Florida prison [CP]