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Sat Dec 15, 2018, 10:48 AM

Pennsylvania Replaced Prison Mail With Photocopies. Inmates and Their Families Are Heartbroken.

And they worry a private company is holding copies of their letters for far too long.

DECEMBER 13, 2018 6:00 AM

Ever since his daughter first learned to use a pen, Joseph Onzik has looked forward to her letters. He reads them from a cell in a state prison in Pennsylvania, where he’s been locked up for about five years, since she was three. “I ask her to write me as much as possible,” he says. It “has advanced from scribble to cursive writing like magic as the time passes by.” Sometimes she calls to let him know what color pen she’ll use for the next one: “At eight years old, it is quite hard for her to keep a secret about the little things in life.”

But this ritual changed in September, when Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections announced that because some letters had been soaked with liquid drugs, inmates in state lockups would no longer receive mail directly from friends and family members. Now their mail goes to Smart Communications, a company in Florida that scans the letters and stores them electronically. At mail call, inmates receive printout copies rather than the originals.

With the new change, prisoners say the letters now feel less personal, and scanned photos are sometimes impossible to make out. Families also have privacy concerns about a company handling their correspondence. In recent interviews with Mother Jones, the Department of Corrections and Smart Communications appeared to disagree on how long digital copies of their letters would be stored in a database that could be used by law enforcement for investigative purposes. The company said it would hold onto the copies for many years longer than state officials suggested.

As the winter holidays approach, prisoners are missing the handwritten letters they once received. Some complain of mishaps like lost pages and long delays. Others say the printouts are of such poor quality that letters are difficult to read. When photos arrive—sometimes reduced in size to fit multiple on a page—they can be so distorted that faces are hard to distinguish. And at the end of the day, a printed copy of a card just doesn’t feel the same as the real thing. “Please remember this is the only method and way to watch her progress and grow in life during the best years of her development,” Onzik said of his daughter’s letters in a message sent to an advocacy group in October and shared with Mother Jones. “I find this new photocopying of my beloved mail heartbreaking to say the least.” Another inmate got married two days before prisons stopped processing mail directly; when his wife sent him their marriage license, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, it arrived as a double-sided photocopy.


If they have machines at airports that can detect bombs...................then they can have machines that can detect drugs.........................

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Reply Pennsylvania Replaced Prison Mail With Photocopies. Inmates and Their Families Are Heartbroken. (Original post)
turbinetree Dec 15 OP
MaryMagdaline Dec 15 #1

Response to turbinetree (Original post)

Sat Dec 15, 2018, 11:36 AM

1. More senseless dehumanization

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