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Inmates protest new state policy

October 6, 2002
By: Martha Kang
State Capital Bureau

I'm Martha Kang in the state Capitol, where many letters from prison inmates sit, awaiting change and better days.

One of these letters is from Kimberly Geiben of the women's prison in Vandalia.

Geiben is an inmate serving 10 years for possession of controlled substance and second degree robbery.

Geiben is also a mother with two daughters- Jessica, who is 10 years old, and Jamie, nine.

And like many other inmates, Geiben often writes letters to keep in touch with the outside world.

But this particular letter to the Capitol is not one of everyday greetings and inquiries.

The letter protests the difficulties of prison life, which Geiben says have been amplified after a new stamp policy was issued by the corrections department.

The policy states the inmates can no longer receive stamps through the mail from their friends and relatives outside.

Now the inmates must buy the stamps from their canteens, and at the most, 20 stamps per month.

For Geiben, this means writing less frequently to Jessica and Jamie.

Geiben says she used to write everyday to her kids, but with the new twenty-stamp cap, she can only write every other day, at most.

Geiben says the contact she maintains with her kids keep her going.

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Geiben says she's one of the more fortunate inmates whose family sends her money, twenty-dollars a month.

Geiben says some inmates'families refuse to send money, and only stamps, because they don't want their money spent on anything else but stamps.

With the new policy, these inmates will be on their own to buy the stamps they need with their seven-dollars and 50-cents of monthly income.

But Public Information Officer for the department Tim Kneist says there is no reason to blame the new policy.

Kneist says inmates could have misused their family's contributions even before the stamp policy.

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Kneist says the department has had problems in the past with inmates claiming the staffmembers allegedly took some of the stamps from their mail while censoring them, and demanding compensation for the missing stamps.

Kniest says the policy isn't restricting, since the inmates' family can still send money to the department itself to be put on the inmates' accounts.

Kniest also says while the policy will reduce work for the department, it will also help the inmates in the longrun.

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Kniest says whether an inmate's family sends money in place of the stamps is an issue for the inmates and their families to resolve, and not the department.

Although inmate Geiben and others are displeased, they have little hope left for change.

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One reason the inmates are discouraged is the approaching term limit of Representative Qunicy Troupe of Saint Louis.

Troupe has been the outside voice for the incarcerated Missourians, but will have to leave office come January.

I'll have more on that in my next story. From Jefferson City, I'm Martha Kang.