Submitted: September 20, 2017
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri - Cape Girardeau
LOKEN, ARNOLD, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
SHEPHERD, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Simpson brought a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the
County of Cape Girardeau, Missouri ("Cape
Girardeau"), alleging that the Cape Girardeau
County Jail's postcard-only incoming-mail policy for
non-privileged mail violated her First and Fourteenth
Amendment rights by impermissibly restricting her ability to
communicate with her son, Trey Simpson, who was then an
inmate. At trial, Ms. Simpson attempted to introduce
incoming-mail policies from other institutions that permit
inmates to receive multi-page letters in envelopes as
evidence that Cape Girardeau's postcard-only policy was
unreasonable. The district court excluded those policies as
irrelevant and held that the postcard-only policy did not
violate Ms. Simpson's constitutional rights. We affirm,
holding that the district court's exclusion of the other
institutions' mail policies was harmless error and the
postcard-only incoming-mail policy is constitutional.
Trey Simpson was first imprisoned at Cape Girardeau County
Jail, the jail had no restrictions on the length or number of
letters that inmates received. Ms. Simpson wrote Trey several
lengthy letters a week that included family photos, drawings
by his nephew, and various pieces of personal information. On
January 1, 2014, during Trey's imprisonment, Cape
Girardeau implemented a new incoming-mail policy requiring
non-privileged mail to be sent on postcards:
non-privileged correspondence entering the Jail
Facility must be post cards [sic]
a) All postcards must be standard white postcards, no index
cards or photographs.
b) Postcards must be no larger then [sic] 5" X 7".
c) Postcards will have their stamps removed and discarded
prior to delivery to the inmate.
d) Postcards must be addressed with the return address
e) There will be no limit on how many postcards inmates can
receive but inmates will be limited to ten postcards in their
cell at any one time.
f) Unacceptable postcards will be returned to sender
1) Defaced or altered postcards are unacceptable
2) No plastic/wrappings on postcards.
3) No labels or stickers will be ...