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Prison system reduces contraband smuggling via mail with security upgrades

The third-party provider copies mail, cards, photos and artwork and sends digital files to the...
The third-party provider copies mail, cards, photos and artwork and sends digital files to the prison.(WCTV)
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 4:51 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - The North Carolina prison system announced Wednesday it has engaged a third-party provider to handle the way offenders receive mail in order to make prisons safer and more secure.

Contraband drugs are often hidden in prison mail and are sometimes integrated into the mail itself. Paper can be coated with liquid fentanyl, Suboxone, K2 or other substances making it hard to distinguish from ordinary paper.

“There’s always the possibility that someone — a staff member or an offender — is accidentally exposed to some dangerous substances, whether through breathing it in or its contact with skin,” said commissioner of prisons Todd Ishee. “Relying on a third-party expert to process mail shifts the risk of exposure away from prison staff.”

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) piloted the digital system for 18 months in four female prison facilities and reported a 50% drop in disciplinary infractions for substance possession and use by offenders.

During the same time period, 568 cases of drugs or paraphernalia caught by mailroom staff were recorded in men’s prisons.

“The safety and security of our prisons are always foremost,” said Ishee. “Reducing the volume of drugs and other contraband entering our prisons will help us protect our staff, the offenders in our custody, and the general public. This new system will be faster and safer.”

The third-party provider copies mail, cards, photos and artwork and sends digital files to the prison. The files can then be printed and delivered to the offender.

All legal mail, case files, supporting documents and court documents must be sent to the prison facility directly by an attorney or legal organization. These will be inspected by the prisons’ mail handlers.

In North Carolina, family and friends of offenders must send their letters directly to TextBehind, beginning Oct. 18. Details will be posted on the Department of Public Safety website.

Families can also upload content to a free app; however, fees (starting at 49 cents) are charged to send the content. Because the third-party provider earns revenue through the app fees, the prison system incurs no cost for the service.

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