The Return Address Controversy
Johnston Proposes Some Solutions

Alcatraz, California               July 19, 1939

Director, Bureau of Prisons

When you were here attending the Warden's Conference and subsequently when we talked over various matters at the institution, we discussed the complaints received from prisoners and their relatives about embarassment of relatives and the advertising of their status by the conspicuous manner of metering the outgoing mail in accordance with the recently adopted regulations.

Acting on your suggestions I have conferred with William H. McCarthy, Postmaster at San Francisco. I went over the entire matter with Mr. McCarthy, who is very understanding and very cooperative. He suggests that we drop that part of the stencil in the meter that uses the words "CAUTION, in reply use this exact address". I would also make the suggestion that the ink roll on the meter be changed from red to black, because the red is conspicuous whereas the black seldom attracts special attention.

Mr. Carthy also suggested that we arrange with him for a box in the San Francisco Postoffice into which all of the mail so directed would be placed and from which it would be taken and sent in sacks to the postoffice at Alcatraz.

Under the plan suggested by Postmaster McCarthy, the prisoner would be instructed to have his correspondent address him by:

Box Number....-...
San Francisco

All mail so addressed would be placed in numbered box reserved for us and from that box it would all be taken and sent in the regular way in regular mail sack to the postoffice at Alcatraz and the Postmaster at Alcatraz would handle in the regular way, sending to the Administration Building for checking, entering, censoring and passing on to the prisoner. [page two]

Postmaster McCarthy is going to write to me in a few days and he will probably repeat the suggestion in the form that I give it to you and probably state that he will arrange for the box, for which there may be a nominal charge, say of $1.00 per year.

I think that it is a practical suggestion which eliminates the embarassment of the prisoners' relatives while preserving all of the safeguards that we now have surrounding the handling of the inmates' mail.

I am inclosing a specimen envelope just as the prisoner has addressed it to his relative and one that I have addressed in the manner suggested by Postmaster McCarthy.

J.A. Johnston,