JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi Department of Corrections is postponing enforcement of a new policy that would limit inmates’ visitation to immediate family.

Corrections officials last week announced the change, which would have limited offenders to visits by 10 members of their immediate family. They said it was prompted by “security violations.”

The proposal prompted questions from pastors and the ACLU.

The Clarion-Ledger (http://on.thec-l.com/2cCC0lv ) reported that the decision to postpone implementation came as good news to inmates’ relatives, friends and fiancés.

Cindy Kelly has been visiting a friend behind bars for eight years and said she wasn’t surprised by the reversal.

“Whoever thought up that policy change didn’t give it much thought, in my opinion,” Kelly said Tuesday. “Something that drastic is going to get a quick and very strong reaction from loved ones of inmates as well as organizations like the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center.”

The visitation change was ordered in an Aug. 31 memo, saying only “immediate family” can visit an inmate, including a “spouse, children, stepchildren raised prior to age 12, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, grandchildren or documented surrogate parents. This excludes ALL pastors, friends, girlfriends, fiancés, cousins, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, in-laws and anyone else who is not listed above.”

Paloma Wu, legal director for the ACLU of Mississippi, said the organization had been contacted by people who would be impacted by a limit on visitation.

“We have serious concerns regarding its legality,” Wu said.

Kelly said if corrections officials are concerned about contraband, they should look more closely at those in charge.

“Sure, some contraband comes in through visitation, but putting the focus on that is ignoring the much larger problem — staff bringing in contraband,” she said.

MDOC has not said when or if the visitation changes would take effect.


Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com