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Wisconsin prisoners to only get photocopies of mail; new policy aims to curb drug abuse

Wisconsin prisoners to only get photocopies of mail; new policy aims to curb drug abuse

Fox Lake Correctional Institution

A new mail policy that was tested at Fox Lake Correctional Institution is now being expanded to the entire prison system. The policy requires mail to be photocopied before it is delivered to inmates in an effort to prevent the infiltration of drug-laced mail.

Starting Dec. 6, all Wisconsin prisoners will only receive photocopies of their personal mail — not the originals — because of a new policy aimed at curbing the infiltration of paper laced with a dangerous drug.

The policy was implemented as a pilot at Fox Lake Correctional Institution in April, but is now being expanded to the entire state prison system because of its success in reducing overdoses and violent behavior associated with K2, or “spice,” a mind-altering synthetic cannabinoid. Paper can be laced with K2 and then smoked, which is how the drug was getting through the mail.

During the pilot, Fox Lake prisoners said they saw months-long delays in receiving mail, educational materials denied, missing pages and the margins of letters cut off with no way to get the missing material back, the Wisconsin State Journal reported in September. But the Department of Corrections said it has hired an outside company to process the photocopying, which should fix the problems inmates saw with the pilot.

“Hiring a group that specializes in this type of work should minimize any issues with the photocopies,” DOC Division of Adult Institutions Administrator Sarah Cooper said.

The Department of Corrections has seen issues with K2 across many facilities, with 182 negative “incidents” related to the drug during the month of September, including 16 medical emergencies. Incidents can also include violent behavior and the discovery of drug paraphernalia.

K2 can cause symptoms of psychosis, suicidal thoughts, violent behavior, seizures, kidney damage, a reduced supply of blood to the heart, toxic reactions and sometimes death, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“By stopping the original pieces of paper from entering the institutions, we can greatly reduce the amount of drugs coming in and create a safer environment,” Department of Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr said, noting that safety concerns are what drove the policy change.

The Department of Corrections is contracting with TextBehind, a mail management service based in Phoenix that already provides mail photocopying for the corrections agency in North Carolina. For the pilot, DOC staff handled all the photocopying, a process that Fox Lake inmates said led to problems.

Under the new policy, inmates’ friends and family will have to send all mail to TextBehind, which will open and photocopy the mail and send the copies back to Wisconsin’s prison facilities. Photos and drawings are to be copied in color. The photocopying process is supposed to be completed within 24 hours.

Legal, medical and other “protected mail” are exempt from the new policy and should still be sent to the institutions, the DOC said.

To address any problems, TextBehind will hold the original mail for 30 days. Inmates will have 14 days after they receive their mail to file a complaint.

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