The Nebraska Department of Corrections will begin a pilot program Monday to photocopy all the mail before it's delivered to inmates at the State Penitentiary in an attempt to reduce drug-related contraband.
All mail, including letters, cards, photos and other paper items, will be photocopied before distribution, according to Friday's announcement.
The new process, which starts Monday, will continue for 90 days.
Corrections Director Scott Frakes said the department will evaluate the amount of time it takes to photocopy all incoming mail, the success and any costs. A news release from the department said similar programs have been implemented in prisons in other states, including West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wyoming, Colorado and Arkansas.
Frakes said the issue is a serious one that most corrections systems are trying to combat.
“Depending on the type of drug, it might be sprayed on paper or dipped. Sometimes, they are hidden in an envelope or under a stamp. Drugs can also be mixed with ink, paint or crayon and then transferred onto paper," he said.
The substances are a danger, not only to those who use them, but other staff and inmates who are exposed, he said.
Most items will be photocopied in black and white; photos will be copied in color. Legal mail will be distributed as originally sent.
Warden Michele Wilhelm said the prison has done its best to identify suspicious mail, but the techniques have become more sophisticated.
"This process should significantly reduce the introduction of drugs, at least through the mail system,” she said.
From January through June of this year, the prison has documented 21 incidents of drugs conveyed through mail items. But, Wilhelm acknowledged, the number is likely higher.
“It is unfortunate that the actions of a few affect the many,” Frakes said. “We know that inmates enjoy receiving mail from loved ones, but we need to continue to tackle the issue of drug use in prison. This is one avenue that may have a considerable impact.”
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