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§25-1-18. Monitoring inmate mail; procedures and restrictions; identifying mail from a state correctional institution; mail to or from attorneys excepted.

(a) The Commissioner of Corrections or his or her designee is authorized to monitor, open, review, copy and disclose mail sent to adult inmates of state correctional institutions in accordance with the following provisions:

(1) All adult inmates of state correctional institutions shall be notified in writing that their mail may be monitored, opened, reviewed, copied and disclosed;

(2) Only the commissioner and his or her designee shall have access to copies of inmates’ mail unless disclosed pursuant to subdivision (4) of this subsection;

(3) Notice that the mail may be monitored shall be prominently placed on or immediately near every mail receptacle or other designated area for the collection or delivery of mail;

(4) The contents of inmates’ mail may be disclosed to an appropriate law-enforcement agency when disclosure is necessary for the investigation, prevention or prosecution of a crime or to safeguard the orderly operation of the correctional institution. Disclosure may be made in civil or administrative proceedings pursuant to an order of a court or administrative tribunal when the disclosure is:

(A) Necessary to safeguard and protect the orderly operation of the correctional institution; or

(B) Necessary to protect persons from physical harm or the threat of physical harm;

(5) All copies of mail shall be retained for at least three years and maintained and destroyed in accordance with the records retention policy of the Division of Corrections adopted pursuant to section one, article eight, chapter five-a of this code, et seq.; or

(6) The inmate whose mail has been copied and disclosed under this section shall be given a copy of all such mail when it is determined by the commissioner, warden or administrator not to jeopardize the safe and secure operation of the facility or to be detrimental to an ongoing investigation or administrative action.

(b) To safeguard the sanctity of the attorney-client privilege, mail to or from an inmate’s attorney shall not be monitored, reviewed, copied or disclosed in any manner unless required by an order of a court of competent jurisdiction. However, such mail may be checked for weapons, drugs and other contraband provided it is done in the presence of the inmate and there is a reasonable basis to believe that any weapon, drug or other contraband exists in the mail.

(c) All inmates’ outgoing mail must be clearly identified as being sent from an inmate at a state correctional institution and must include on the face of the envelope the name and full address of the institution.

(d) The Commissioner of Corrections or his or her designee is authorized to open, monitor, review, copy and disclose an inmate’s outgoing mail in accordance with the provisions of subsection (a) of this section.

(e)  The commissioner shall promulgate a policy directive establishing a record-keeping procedure which requires retention of: (1) All inmate mail provided to law enforcement; and (2) the name of the law-enforcement officer and the law-enforcement agency to which the inmate mail was provided. The records required to be retained pursuant to this subsection shall be retained in accordance with the record retention policy specified in subdivision (5), subsection (a) of this section. The inmate mail and the information regarding law enforcement are law-enforcement records under subdivision (4), subsection (a), section four, article one, chapter twenty-nine-b of this code.

(f) Should an inmate be charged with a criminal offense based in whole or in part on the inmate’s mail supplied to law enforcement, the inmate’s attorney in said criminal matter shall be entitled to access to and copies of the inmate’s mail in the custody of the commissioner which are not evidence in or the subject of another criminal investigation.

(g) The provisions of this section shall apply only to those persons serving a sentence of incarceration in the physical custody of the Commissioner of Corrections.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2017 Regular Session
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