jail mail
n. A letter to the editor sent by a prison inmate.
In prisons across the country, with their artificial pre-Internet worlds where magazines are one of the few connections to the outside and handwritten correspondence is the primary form of communication, the art of the pen-to-paper letter to the editor is thriving. Magazine editors see so much of it that they have even coined a term for these letters: jail mail.
—Jeremy W. Peters, “The Handwritten Letter, an Art All but Lost, Thrives in Prison,” The New York Times, January 07, 2011
The letter from inmate #374155 had lain on my desk, buried amid piles of correspondence and research for a few days. I get a lot of "jail mail" and I know what to expect.
—Fannie Flono, “From inmate 374155: Don't drop out,” Charlotte Observer, October 01, 2010
2000 (earliest)
I am at least partially responsible for the Texas Monthly ban on prison subscriptions. We are a small company whose roots began with advertising in TM in 1986.I have a file that we built titled Jail Mail, all attributable to TM. … Being in the jewelry business, I consider all correspondence with inmates a security risk.
—C. Kirk Root, “Conned by cons,” Houston Press, August 31, 2000
See also this excerpt from the August 1973 issue of Ebony that includes a letter from a prison inmate where the heading above the letter is "Jail Mail".
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