Ohio plans to digitally scan all incoming mail to prisoners in an attempt to curb the smuggling of contraband drugs.
“Having the ability to digitally scan mail will cut down on contraband,” said Annette Chambers-Smith, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC). The change will help to maintain “the important connections the incarcerated men and women have with their loved ones,” she told the Associated Press.
The department will send digital copies of the mail to prisoners by way of their tablets, which are used primarily for email and video calls. Legal mail will be exempted from this policy, which takes effect in January 2022.
Ohio has a $22.7 million contract with Global Tel Link, which includes the mail change plus phone and video calls between the incarcerated and their loved ones.
The primary goal of digitizing mail is to intercept paper soaked with drugs such as marijuana, opioids, and, in one instance, Raid bug spray.
Chambers-Smith added that 60% of Ohio prison residents have a history of serious substance abuse.
Jeanna Kenney runs a prisoner advocacy program in Ohio and is married to an incarcerated person. She believes that photocopying and digitizing mail would not fully address the contraband issue.
Kenney said that it is easier for the incarcerated to obtain drugs than it is for those on the outside.
Similar programs operate in Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and the federal Bureau of Prisons, the AP reported.