DOC proposing to tighten oversight of mail


Jan 31, 2021
CommonWealth Magazine
By Sarah Betancourt

Incoming letters would be photocopied or scanned

THE STATE DEPARTMENT of Correction, citing concerns about drug deliveries, is proposing to tighten oversight of incoming prison mail, including correspondence from attorneys.

During an online hearing on Friday, agency officials said they currently require all incoming mail at the state’s maximum security prison to be photocopied, and are considering extending the policy to the state’s other penal institutions. They also said they are considering scanning all incoming mail and delivering it electronically to prisoners via tablets.

“Elicit substance introduction distribution and use are major problems within the departments’ institutions,” said Heidi Handler, the regulations counsel at the Department of Correction, at the hearing.

Handler said all incoming mail at Souza Baranowski prison has been photocopied since a 2017 policy change. She noted contraband has been discovered, including in mail identified as legal paperwork. She did not cite specific cases or mention whether attorneys had been prosecuted.“We are not aware of any instances when bona fide legal mail has been the source of illegal drugs,” said Randy Gioia, deputy chief counsel of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state agency in charge of indigent defense. During his testimony at the hearing, he called the DOC’s claims an “exaggerated response to a nonexistent risk.”

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