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Mitigating Contraband via the Mail: An Overview of Approaches for Managing the Introduction of Drug Contraband through the Digitization of Inmate Mail

NCJ Number
Date Published
7 pages

This brief, which is one in a series of documents that focus on contraband in correctional facilities, focuses on the digitization of incoming inmate mail in countering this means of smuggling drugs to inmates of a correctional facility.


Detecting drug contraband smuggled into correctional facilities through the mail is challenging, because drugs can be sprayed onto paper, incorporated into ink, hidden under stamps, and concealed within a piece of correspondence. The methods used to hide the drugs, coupled with the high volume of mail received daily by inmates, increase the difficulty in detecting all drugs by using physical screening. In attempting to address this threat, some correctional facilities are using strategies that replace physical mail with electronic communication or reproductions of originals. Under this technique, all inmate mail is diverted to an offsite mail-processing vendor, who converts the mail to a digital from and transmits the documents to correctional facilities for distribution to inmates via tablets or kiosks. Adopting such a system is most effective when it is part of a “bundled” approach with other inmate services, such as telephone, messaging, video visitation, and electronic books, which are delivered through kiosks or tablets. In most cases, the digitized mail services can be provided at no cost to the agency as part of a comprehensive inmate services platform. 5 figures

Date Published: January 1, 2021