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Federal Appeals Court: Prison Officials Can't Read Outgoing Inmate Mail To Lawyers

A federal appeals court has declared Arizona’s policy of letting state prison officials read inmates' outgoing mail to their lawyers unconstitutional.

The ruling, by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reverses a lower court ruling. The court now says Arizona's policy to review private mail violates an inmate’s Sixth Amendment rights to correspond confidentially with his lawyer — and his First Amendment right to free speech.

The office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The inmate sued after a prison officer allegedly denied his request to stop reading a letter addressed to his lawyer. The official allegedly said he was authorized to scan the letter’s content. The appeals court returned the case to a U.S. District judge in Phoenix.

Heather van Blokland moved to Phoenix in March 2016 to join KJZZ as a host/producer, after working as an on-air host/producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, covering middays, weekends and most everything in between. van Blokland previously worked as a Morning Edition host and reporter at Florida NPR affiliate WUFT-FM, covering business and agriculture beats. She was also the local producer and editor for StoryCorps’ story booth.Like many in public media, van Blokland brings a diverse background to her daily duties. Her first career was in the private sector as a financial analyst manager in commercial and investment banking. She also used to teach canoeing and kayaking on the local rivers in North Central Florida. Her education includes a master’s in mass communication from the University of Florida, a bachelor’s in finance, marketing and multinational business from Florida State University, and a diploma in acting for film and television from Vancouver Film School in Vancouver, British Columbia. She wrote and produced a film, later submitted to the Vancouver International Film Festival.In her free time, van Blokland enjoys exploring the outdoors, everything from a hike on South Mountain to Vancouver's Butchart Gardens to a ride through Swaziland’s Mkhaya Game Reserve. Her travels have included South Africa, Swaziland, western Canada, Australia, the British Isles, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay and summers on the outskirts of London. She is also a certified open-water diver, and still looking to apply that skill in Phoenix.Half Southern and half English, van Blokland enjoys using phrases that surprise people. She does not enjoy steak and kidney pie or Monty Python. You can send your ardent disagreements with this statement to her directly at [email protected].