ACLU Challenges Kentucky Prison’s Ban on Mail Promoting Homosexuality

prison pdLEXINGTON, Ky. — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging a policy at a Kentucky prison prohibiting mail that “promotes homosexuality.”

According to reports, the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex screens the mail of prisoners for contraband and anything deemed to violate its internal policies. Prohibited materials include gang-related literature, free gifts, and “letters, photographs, books and magazines that promote homosexuality.”

The statewide inmate correspondence guidelines also note, “Types of materials that may justify rejection include those which depict: homosexuality, sadism, masochism, bestiality, and sexual acts or nudity with children.”

While the ACLU will not divulge what prompted it to investigate the matter, it says that it submitted an open records request about the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex, and discovered that the prison had rejected material 13 times since August 2015. Some of the items rejected were copies of the homosexual publications Out Magazine and The Advocate.

The ACLU believes that the rejection is discriminatory. It wrote to prison officials last month to lodge a complaint.

“Kentucky prisoners cannot constitutionally be denied the right to receive mail just because the content relates to gay people or issues of interest to gay people, or may be construed as ‘promoting homosexuality,’” legal director William Sharp wrote to warden Kathy Litteral.

“Doing so singles out particular individuals for unequal treatment on the basis of their sexual orientation, thus denying them the fundamental right to receive information protected by the First Amendment,” he said.

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The letter also cited a 1987 court case surrounding the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, where a similar policy was in place. The warden had argued that such materials could “encourage and condone homosexuality and would thus be a danger to the security of the prison.”

He also stated that such materials could also identify to other inmates those who are homosexual, and possibly put the homosexual inmate’s safety at risk.

But the ACLU doesn’t believe that homosexual literature poses a threat to prison safety and order.

“Gay people are no more likely to pose a threat than anyone else,” wrote Ria Tabacco Mar with the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project in a blog post about the matter.

While it is not yet known how the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex plans to respond, the state Department of Corrections says that it is going to review the policies at the various prisons, as well as its own printed guidelines.

“We are going to review all of the policies, both institutionally and system-wide,” spokesperson Lisa Lamb told reporters.

As previously reported, last July, the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) revoked the volunteer credentials of a local pastor after he did not feel comfortable with signing an agreement not to refer to homosexuality as sinful.

“DJJ staff, volunteers, interns, and contractors shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful, or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” policy reads.

David Wells, a pastor with Pleasant View Baptist Church in McQuady, had been volunteering at the Warren County Regional Juvenile Detention Center for the past 10 years, ministering to troubled youth. But because he could not agree to the new policy, his volunteer status was revoked.

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