The Delaware Department of Corrections (DoC) is modernizing the mail screening system for all state prison facilities this month to improve mail security and eliminate contraband delivered by mail.

The new system, which includes off-site electronic mail screening and color reproduction, will enable prison staff to receiving incoming mail addressed to incarcerated individuals without the risk of contraband and better protect safety of correctional staff while streamlining mail processing.

“Drugs and illicit contraband delivered to our prison facilities through postal mail pose significant and growing risks to health and safety, including overdose and death, and those deadly substances are increasingly hard to detect,” Department of Correction Commissioner Terra Taylor said.

“Some correctional systems have reacted to this threat by replacing physical mail delivery with scanned images of letters and cards that are viewed by incarcerated people on electronic devices,” Taylor said. “We recognize the value that holding a letter, card, or photograph has on personal connections with family and friends, and that’s why the Delaware DOC has invested in a mail screening system that delivers high quality color hard copies of mail to incarcerated individuals while cutting off the flow of life-threatening mail contraband into our prison facilities.”

In 2022, the DoC undertook a pilot of the new mail screening system at one of the state’s correctional facility. The state worked with Pigeonly Corrections, a company that provides mail screening services for correctional systems across the country. DoC said in a press release that the pilot program has virtually eliminated mail-delivered contraband at the facility and led to a two-thirds overall reduction in contraband at the facility.

Under the new system, non-legal mail is sent to incarcerated people via PO Box to a central processing facility. Then, non-legal postal mail received at the central processing facility is opened, screened for contraband, and scanned into an electronic document that closely resembles the original hardcopy, including color. After the initial screening and scanning, the electronic scan is shared with the DoC through a secure online dashboard for further screening to ensure that the mail is permitted under DoC policy. Once approved, the electronic scan is printed, packaged individually in envelopes, and shipped from the central processing facility via Priority Mail to the prison facility for distribution to the inmate recipients.

DoC also said that the expanded mail screen in prisons comes as the department is working with its communication vendor to increase the number of tablets available to incarcerated individuals in prison and community corrections facilities.

The department noted that tablets are shared among incarcerated individuals and demand for the devices exceeds the number that are currently provided. DoC explained that increasing the availability of tablets will not only help meet the strong interest in electronic communication with loved ones and community supports but will also enable DoC to connect large numbers of incarcerated individuals to tablet-based education, treatment, and programming resources. The department said it is “working aggressively to much more closely meet that demand.”

Read More About
Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs