A.B.O. Comix v. San Mateo County
Astrid Da Silva

A.B.O. Comix v. San Mateo County

A lawsuit challenging the digitization and destruction of mail in San Mateo County’s jails

The Knight Institute, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Social Justice Legal Foundation are challenging San Mateo County, California’s policy of digitizing and then destroying physical mail sent to people in its jails. The plaintiffs in the case include five people incarcerated in San Mateo County jails, two of their family members, and A.B.O. Comix, a collective of artists that corresponds with LGBTQ people in prisons and jails.

Under this policy, members of the public are forbidden from sending physical mail to individuals in San Mateo County’s jails. Instead, they must route letters to a private company, Smart Communications, which scans and stores digital copies of the mail for at least seven years. The originals are destroyed, while the scanned copies are retained in a database that allows the county—and anyone to whom the county has provided access—to monitor, read, and search through mail for any reason, or for no reason at all.

The lawsuit argues that the county’s mail policy violates the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; Sections 2 and 13 of Article 1 of the California state constitution; and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Status: Complaint filed on March 9, 2023.

Case Information: A.B.O. Comix v. San Mateo Cnty., No. 23-civ-01075 (Super. Ct. of San Mateo Cnty.).

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