Monitoring of prisoner mail to be banned
Monitoring of all outgoing mail sent by prison inmates will be stopped, with some exceptions, to protect the privacy of convicts serving time behind bars.
The Ministry of Justice said Thursday it has decided to revise a current law that requires the inspection of all outgoing inmate mail by prison guards for checks on prohibited information that could threaten prison security.
The move came after a ruling by the Constitutional Court concluded that the inspection of prisoners’ mail was unconstitutional. The ruling was made in February after an inmate in Masan, South Gyeongsang Province, filed a complaint against a prison official who ordered him to unseal a letter that was to be delivered to the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission.
“We hope the new rule will guarantee prisoners’ rights for communication and speech that have often been violated,” a ministry official said.
However, the change will not apply to people convicted of drug offences, or offences related to organized crime, or those that break prison rules. Moreover, mail sent between prisoners will also be subject to inspection, the ministry said.
When jail staffers conduct censorship on mails in exceptional cases, they will have to notify the prisoners immediately.
The ministry has also decided to revise its policy on online communication. Only family members, siblings, or close relatives of inmates currently have the right to talk to communicate via Skype or web cameras which are under close surveillance by jail staff.
The ministry will allow such online communication among inmates because some may have family members serving jail terms in different prisons across the country.