Inmates lose newspaper subscription, Sheriff cites old policy

Bianca Montes By Bianca Montes

Aug. 24, 2014 at 6 p.m.
Updated Aug. 25, 2014 at 5:06 a.m.

Inmates at Victoria County Jail want their news.

However, the reinforcement of an old policy muzzles which outlet gives it to them.

When Christopher Cordil-Cortinas was arrested late February, he began receiving the paper and continued to receive it till about two weeks ago. Then, it stopped coming, and no one explained why. His mother, Sally Cordil, called inmate services to get some answers and was told newspapers were now considered a fire hazard and no longer allowed.

The statement, she said, is absurd.

It's ridiculous," Cordil said, "like they don't want them to have anything today."

Rules in the county jail aren't consistent and change on the whim of who's working, Cordil said.

"It seems like they're trying to get them into trouble," she said. "It's really a shame. I know they can get in trouble in there, and I understand, but wouldn't it be better if they have something to keep them busy?"

Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said the rule dates back a decade and was rightfully put in place.

When he took office, the list of what inmates were allowed was wide open, and even included items such as adult magazines, O'Connor said.

"It was a free world as far as materials went," he said.

That anything goes mentality came with a wealth of concerns, stemming from inmates using the newspapers to clog toilets, create contraband and breach security.

While the Texas Commission on Jail Standards states all inmates must be provided some connectivity to media, O'Connor argues it does not specify how that connectivity should be made.

He chose television as a suitable means to the news.

The only exception to the rule is if a cell does not have a working television or if an inmate is housed in infirmary.

According to Advocate subscription records, at the beginning of August, 30 daily subscriptions were delivered to the county jail.

More than half of those subscriptions were canceled last week because inmates said they were no longer able to have a newspaper.

It's not outlined in the jail's policy and procedure manual that newspapers are restricted, nor are they mentioned.

The policy simply states that any article ordered by state or federal court order is allowed.

"This is a jail, and we're going to run it as a jail," O'Connor said. "You're just not going to have the amenities of home."



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