Questions should be directed to the Office of Chief Counsel at 717.728.7763.
The Department of Correction's (DOC) DC-ADM 803, Inmate Mail and Incoming Publications policy,
affects the way that mail from an attorney or a court to an inmate will be handled. Unless the policy is followed, all mail, including mail from an attorney or a court, will be opened in the mailroom of the facility where the inmate is housed.
The first procedure that may be used is outlined in Subsection VI.B.2.a. of DC-ADM 803. Under that procedure, an attorney or authorized representative/designee must hand-deliver the mail to a DOC facility or Community Corrections Center with the appropriate postage. It will be inspected for contraband by DOC staff in his/her presence, and then marked with a DOC stamp showing that it has been inspected. It will then be sealed and placed in U.S. Mail. When it arrives at the facility, it will be opened in the presence of the inmate and inspected for contraband.
The second procedure provides an option for an attorney or a court to request a control number and is outlined in Subsection VI.B.2.b. of DC-ADM 803. If a number is obtained and used as set forth in the policy, mail from an attorney or court using the assigned control number will be opened in the presence of the inmate.
An attorney seeking a control number shall send a letter or the Control Number Request Form via facsimile to 717-728-0312 to the attention of the Office of Chief Counsel, Control Number Request. The letter or form shall include the name of the attorney, address, telephone and facsimile numbers as well as his/her state attorney identification number. The letter or form shall also contain a verification subject to the penalties of 18 Pa. C.S. §4904 relating to unsworn falsification to authorities that all mail he or she sends to inmates using the control number will contain only essential, confidential, attorney-client communication and will contain no contraband.
If the attorney is part of an office with other attorneys who correspond with inmates, one number may be assigned to the entire office. If this occurs, the office must designate one person to be responsible to check all mail to inmates, on which the control number is used, for contraband and to be sure that it only contains essential, confidential, attorney-client communication. The designated person must sign a statement subject to the penalties of 18 Pa. C.S. §4904 relating to unsworn falsification to authorities, that all mail with the control number on it contains only essential, confidential, attorney-client communication and contains no contraband.
A court seeking a control number shall send or fax a letter to the Office of Chief Counsel, Control Number Request. The letter from the court requesting a control number shall be on official letterhead and shall be signed by any judge or chief non-judicial officer of the court (e.g., chief clerk). Although the request from a court need not contain a verification, the control number should be used only for mail the sender truly deems confidential.
A court may request a single control number that may be used by all judges and offices of the court. Alternatively, a judge or office of the court may request an individual number. The requestor must designate one person to be responsible to check all mail to inmates for contraband and to be sure that it only contains confidential communication. The name of that person must be identified in the letter seeking the control number.
The Office of Chief Counsel will provide the attorney or court with a control number via facsimile the next business day.
The attorney or court must place the control number, along with the name of the attorney, the name of the law firm or law office or the name of the office of the court, on each envelope mailed to any Department inmate for the mail to be opened in the presence of the inmate. The control number is a confidential number that will not be provided to the inmate. To keep this number confidential, the mailroom staff will cross-out the number with a permanent marker or other method prior to the envelope being delivered to the inmate.
If the attorney or court follows the above procedure, mail sent to an inmate will be opened in the presence of the inmate. If a control number does not appear on the envelope, the mail will be treated as regular mail and opened in the mailroom unless the sender has followed the first procedure of delivering the mail to an institution or Community Corrections Center to be searched. Mail that appears to be from a court, but bears no control number, will be opened by the mailroom staff of the facility and inspected for contraband prior to delivery to inmate.