For security reasons, it makes sense for jails and prisons to have some regulations when it comes to incoming mail for inmates, but is this too far?

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Contraband Through The Mail

Apparently, it has been more of a problem for the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) than one might think.

Back in October of 2020, the Detroit Free Press (Freep) reported Michigan's correctional facilities would no longer give inmates original copies of their personal mail (ie: letters, cards, drawings, etc.) and instead give them black-and-white photocopies as a way to curb the amount of drugs coming in.

Chris Gautz, department spokesman, told Freep in October that from January to September of 2020, there were 122 instances of contraband coming through the mail, an increase from the year before.

"Gautz said mailroom staff are seeing an increase in paper soaked in the synthetic cannabinoid K2," Freep reports. "The paper can be ingested to get high."

Jackson County Jail Takes It A Step Further

While Michigan Department of Corrections made the change to no longer give inmates their original mail, only photocopies, MLive reports the Jackson County Jail is taking these preventative measures a step further.

The Jackson County Office of the Sheriff shared a statement to their Facebook page on Monday, May 10th saying, "Effective immediately, the Jackson County Jail will only accept pre-postage stamped postcards for inmate mail correspondence. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter."

According to MLive, Undersheriff Chris Simpson elaborated on the matter saying this move was to counter the risk of contraband that could come in to the jail through envelopes or other "enclosed packages" despite also noting the amount of mail coming into the jail has decreased in recent years.

How To Still Feel Connected

In the Detroit Free Press' mail contraband coverage in October they also reported that people who advocate for incarcerated individuals say these policies are coming at a time when mental health and the lack of being able to see their loved ones has been taking a toll on prisoners.

I think we can all agree a photocopied birthday card, a copy of a drawing from a loved one or just a simple post card simply does not carry that same meaning or fill at least some of that void of connection to those in the outside world.

While Freep did report MDOC recently got video calls going at some facilities, not all prisons across the state have them.

Luckily, according to MLive, inmates at the Jackson County Jail do have that option, using technology to communicate with loved ones and their attorneys like tablets provided Securus Video Connect.

So, as these changes are implemented and possibly could be implemented at more correctional facilities around the state, it is probably best to check with the facility your loved one may be at to see what your communication options are if you would rather them have something a bit more personal.

On the flip side, postcards are a cheap and simple way for any of us to make someone who may be getting a little lonely behind bars smile! Who know, you may get a postcard pen pal out of it.

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