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Prison tightens mail policy in effort to curb drug influx

Last modified: 4/14/2015 8:19:54 AM
State prison officials plan to introduce new across-the-board mail restrictions next month in an effort to further clamp down on the influx of drugs and other contraband.

Beginning May 1, inmates in all security classes will be prohibited from receiving greeting cards, decorative postcards or stationery with drawings, stickers or other illustrative items that could hide illegal substances.

“I’m sure there are many loved ones who send greeting cards sincerely,” spokesman Jeff Lyons said. “Unfortunately, there are others who use it as an avenue to introduce contraband.”

Standard stationery and plain “standard stock” postcards with content written in pencil or ink will still be permitted. Tourist postcards or those featuring designs or pictures of any kind will not.

Lyons said officials have reported an increase over the last year in the number of known attempts to smuggle in hard-to-detect drugs like suboxone, an opioid that is sold as a thin film and can be easily concealed by stamps or other decorations. About one to two cases are being documented per week, on average, Lyons said.

The Department of Corrections tried to weed out contraband in 2013, limiting mail for high-security inmates to only legal documents or postcards, but later rescinded the policy after the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire raised First Amendment concerns.

Since then, all types of written content have been allowed, but only content – envelopes are removed before delivery to inmates. The envelope practice will continue under the new directive.

Other parts of the existing mail policy will also remain in place, including a 10-page length restriction.

Lyons said some relatives and friends of inmates have already criticized the move. In a letter to the Monitor, Concord prisoner John Barber said he planned to file a grievance with prison officials, based on his belief that the rule would violate his free speech rights.

“This policy will make it so my 3 year old son cant scribble in a card to let me know he loves me,” he wrote. “It will also make it so my family cant send me holiday and birthday cards.

“I’m sure many other inmates look forward to getting cards from there children and family.”

The ACLU said they were still reviewing the policy and were not yet prepared to comment.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)


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