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A Utah State Prison inmate has testified that his legal mail was opened 27 times in a four-month period by prison officials, with one delay forcing him to miss a deadline with the U.S. Supreme Court.

David R. Jolivet gave testimony in federal court and cross-examined Utah Department of Corrections officials in a suit contending the prison's new mail policy is unconstitutional.The hearing was continued until Monday.

Jolivet entered evidence into the court of U.S. Magistrate Ronald Boyce that letters and documents from the U.S. Supreme Court, Utah Supreme Court, U.S. District Court and Utah attorney general had been opened outside his presence.

Gary W. DeLand, executive director of corrections, said a recent policy instituted at the prison allows officials to open inmate mail from the courts and attorneys without being in the presence of the inmate.

DeLand said that "not all mail from an attorney or a court is privileged mail."

DeLand testified Monday that according to the new policy, mail must be stamped "privileged" before it is opened in front of inmates. Otherwise, mail is opened in the mail room for inspection whether or not it comes from an attorney or court.

DeLand said that corrections notified the courts and the Utah Bar Association of its new policy, giving ample warning of the new measure.

Jolivet said that his writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court was held up because it contained a paper clip. He testified the paper clip was ruled contraband.

Jolivet testified he returned the writ of certiorari to the high court three days after deadline because of the delay.