"The Postal Service, which touts itself as the most trusted government agency, has also become a trusted delivery mechanism for drug traffickers." - Washington Post
While the high-profile national mail security issues were the biggest headline news, there were a myriad of dangerous issues within the prison mail systems nationwide that also made headlines recently.
Last year saw more than a few large incidents within the prisons. In ten Pennsylvania prisons , 23 guards, four nurses and an inmate were exposed to substances described as liquid synthetic drugs like Opioids.
Concurrently, in Ohio 20 prison guards and inmates sickened by possible opioid overdose symptoms.
These widespread prison incidents have led to further scrutiny of the incoming mail security screening and procedures.
Prison Mail – What is the Danger?
Contacts outside the prison system are soaking letter paper and envelopes in synthetic marijuana and an opioid drug used to treat heroin addiction. These pre-soaked letters and envelopes are being sent directly to the prisons.
“they had found Suboxone strips in crayon drawings, as well as under postage stamps (leading some facilities to remove stamps from incoming mail).” - Prison Legal News
Such little amounts of the opioid is needed for a drug user, that the quantity in even a regular envelope is hard to detect. And only a few grains can be dangerous for those who open and handle mail.
What is being Done to Protect Both Prison Workers and Inmates?
Some prison systems have put extensive rules on the types of mail that can be delivered. Others have gone to completely no original mail for inmates. Unpopular policies of only providing Xeroxed versions of mail are now being overturned in some states.
"Except for legal and privileged correspondence, Virginia prisoners also no longer receive their actual mail. Instead, each letter – which is restricted to five pages – and its envelope are photocopied, and the copies are given to prisoners." -Prison Legal News
Prison mailrooms have had to develop more stringent screening processes. In addition, those who screen the mail now use at least basic protective wear such as gloves and breathing masks.
Mail to N.H. Prison Inmates on Hold for Screening Upgrades - New Hampshire Public Radio
What Does This Mean for Your Organization?
The situation at prisons reminds us that anyone with a postage stamp and an intention to do harm can have easy access.
As chemicals, biologics and drugs are available on a mail-order basis over the internet, the unintended uses and transport of the harmful substances can intentionally or unintentionally do harm to those who come in contact with them at any step in the mail or package delivery and opening process.
Those wishing to do harm, have developed even more creative and deadly ways to get very powerful drug-like substances to intended targets.
Make sure your facilities and your organization are protected. Mail screening is an important piece of an entire security plan.
Basic steps for Mailroom Safety include:
1. Put a plan in writing
2. Install correct sensor equipment
3. Train employees
4. Run practice drills
If this is not possible, consider outsourcing mail screening to a third party or sending mail to a third party screening facility.
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