Lincoln, Neb. — A pilot program will soon launch at the Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP), aimed at reducing the influx of drug-related contraband. All mail, including letters, cards, photos and other paper items, will be photocopied prior to distribution. The new process, which starts on July 20, 2020, will continue for 90 days.
Scott R. Frakes, director for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) said evaluation of the program would include the amount time it takes to photocopy all incoming mail, the impact on drug introduction and any associated costs. Similar programs have been implemented in a number other state correctional systems including West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wyoming, Colorado and Arkansas.
“The issue we’re trying to combat is a serious one and it is one that is being confronted in most other corrections systems. 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. These substances are a significant danger, not only to those who use them. Other staff members and inmates can also be affected, simply through exposure.”
Inmates at NSP have received notification about the new process. Most items will be photocopied in black and white. Photos will be duplicated in color. Legal mail will be distributed as originally sent.
“We do our best to identify suspicious mail prior to it reaching someone’s hands,” said NSP Warden Michele Wilhelm. “The techniques used to get this type of contraband through have become more sophisticated. This process should significantly reduce the introduction of drugs, at least through the mail system.”
From January 2020 through June 2020, there have been 21 documented incidents of drugs conveyed through mail items.
“We know that the number is actually higher. We do not have the resources to test every piece of mail that comes in,” noted Warden Wilhelm. “If something appears suspicious, we will follow up.”
“It is unfortunate that the actions of a few affect the many,” observed Dir. Frakes. “This is clear example of that. 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.”