PINE BELT, Miss. - The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) have prohibited families to take visitation photographs with their loved ones after a statute that was passed in 2012. Since then families have been signing a petition to override MDOC's policy.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and local civil rights lawyer Michael Adelman agree that denying inmates and family photos is not part of the rehabilitation process.
In a statement released to FOX 23 MDOC said, "The agency is understaffed and needs to devote all personnel to carry out its public safety mission."
"Prohibiting inmate photographs is based on a state law, which prohibits contraband" added MDOC officials.
ACLU Representative Blake Feldman said MDOC's reasons are constitutional, but its policy is not an example of its mission in the rehabilitation process.
“It does not cost anything for them for once a month, for them to do a security check and approve for someone to do it, where someone can take their picture, I am sure people will volunteer to do that for free.”
Adelman and Feldman said the policy is not helping inmates. “This all feeds into, that culture, a culture of mass incarceration where incarceration itself is looked into pure punishment" said Feldman.
He continued, "and not an attempt for somebody to come rehabilitated or improve their life and turn things around.”
Feldman said, “But one of the biggest factors for successful re-entry is, whether people have a strong support network whenever they get out, the best way to have that is to be able to maintain strong, meaningful relationships with their family.”
Adelman said pictures have a psychological impact on not only inmates, but their families on the other side.
“For these children, I mean, they have lost a parent and being able to do something small like that, will give them a sense that there is still a possibility of a family.
"Still a possibility for reunification, so I think it is small minded on part of the Mississippi Department of Corrections" continued Adelman.
Feldman said the entire situation raises the question if Mississippi's Criminal Justice system truly works to rehabilitate inmates.
“A lot of these people they are broken people, is our corrections system further breaking them?”