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A pile of papers, a gavel and an envelope stamped "Privileged" representing legal mail
Illustration by bakhtiar_zein on iStock

While California lawmakers are working on ways to solve overcrowding in prisons, its corrections department enforces petty rules that contribute to the problem. 

Here is one example: 

At California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, California, we are informed of our mail from legal courts through an official daily notification called “ducat passes.” 

These passes require the inmate to report to the gate at a stated time. If we are not there, we face disciplinary action, which can range from a loss of phone privileges for 30 days to 90 additional days added to the inmate’s sentence.

Officers can charge an inmate with failure to follow instructions or delaying a peace officer’s duty which, in California, is a misdemeanor charge. This is not a new rule. 

There have been times in the past when I did not receive a mail ducat, so the officers yell my name over the loudspeaker. 

On one occasion, I had my ears covered as I listened to the radio. Someone finally tapped me on the shoulder to let me know that I had mail at the gate. When I got there, the gate officers told me of this policy. Luckily, I had not received a ducat pass, so I couldn’t be penalized.

I see the tactics of this predatory system, and I do my best to avoid becoming ensnared. I will not be broken.

I anticipate being released this year and cannot afford additional time added. I will not be broken.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Abdur Rahman Malik

Abdur Rahman Malik is a writer from San Diego whose passion is uplifting the Black community. He wrote and published much of his work on PJP while incarcerated in California.