Other views: Rethinking policy on prisoner mail

Pennsylvanians know our state is influential. Some of us know we’re the center of the universe. People around the nation and the world care about what we say and do.

When we declare we’ve solved a problem, even without proof, some will seek to imitate our alleged success.

That’s why the Prison Policy Initiative says our declaring a solution to the problem of drugs in prisons is so disturbing. It’s not true.

The Prison Policy Initiative, a respected non-partisan, non-profit national organization, is calling out the state Department of Corrections for touting a program to address the problem of drugs in state prisons by stopping direct mail deliveries to prisoners.

DOC officials said drugs were reaching inmates through the letters they receive, some of it — they claim — miraculously infused into the very paper families sent to their loved ones in prison.

Now, instead of getting a hand-written letter sent directly from his mother, a young man gets a photocopy of what she sent.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative’s research, all of this has cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more than $4 million a year. The company raking in the dough is not even in Pennsylvania. We’re sending our prisoners’ mail to Smart Communications in Seminole, Fla.

The Prison Policy Initiative says its years of investigations have not found any proof that scanning letters reduced the amount of drugs entering prisons.

In some cases, they argue, just the opposite happened.

We call on state officials to rethink the policy of paying $4 million a year to a Florida company to scan letters that families send to their loved ones in Pennsylvania prisons. At the very least, we call on the Department of Corrections to provide some proof that scanning the personal letters of prisoners is solving the drug problem within prison walls.

Without such proof, the Prison Policy Institute is right to warn Pennsylvanians their tax dollars are being wasted. And Pennsylvania officials are abusing their influence by spreading misery at home and misinformation throughout the nation.



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