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August 13, 2012

County jail begins new mail policy

Effort to control drugs entering facility

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — While law enforcement officials battle the drug problem in the community, jail officials continue their battle to maintain a drug-free facility.

With recent influx of mail to inmates containing illicit drugs, the Laurel County Detention Center imposed a new policy regarding incoming mail to inmates, effective Aug. 1.

As the new month arrived, inmates at the jail can no longer receive letters arriving in envelopes. Instead, family and friends must correspond through postcards. Any letters arriving in envelopes will either be returned to the sender or discarded. The new policy will not apply to legal correspondence.

Laurel County Jailer Jamie Mosley said battling the drug problem inside the walls of the county’s jail is an ongoing battle and the change in the inmate mail policy is just another step toward achieving that goal.

“This policy applies to the incoming social mail,” Mosley explained. “This is a result of several attempts to send Suboxone strips in envelopes to the inmates.”

Suboxone strips are commonly used, he said, to help drug users get off one drug, similar to the role methadone clinics have played over the past decade. It is an opiate similar to heroin or morphine and is highly addictive. Classified as a pain killer, suboxone is a psychoactive drug that will impair one’s ability, including the ability to operate a motor vehicle.

Mosley said suboxone strips entering jail facilities is a “nationwide problem” and was discussed at a recent Jailer’s Conference. The Department of Corrections recommended switching inmate mail to the postcards due to the common practice of sending suboxone strips in the seal of envelopes.

“Suboxone strips are smaller than a paper clip and are put in the facing seams of envelopes. Then the sender draws on the envelope to hide the color of the strips,” Mosley explained. “After the conference with the Department of Corrections, we decided we would go to the postcards instead of the letters.”

Oddly enough, the decision was soon put to the test.

“The week after we got back from the conference, we had two letters come in (the jail) with (suboxone),” Mosley said. “We always open the letters and tear off the stamp in case someone tries to slip in drugs. But we’re trying to make it so anyone in jail who wants to be drug-free can be if they want to.”

Mosley said many of the inmates at the local facility come in addicted to the various drugs in the community.

“They are not strong enough to fight the temptation, so we are trying to keep the jail drug-free,” he said. “The Department of Corrections has not mandated that we stop letters from coming in, but we are trying to be proactive.”

Inmates in the Laurel County Detention Center were given one month’s notice to contact friends and family about the new policy. He added that those persons who do attempt to send drugs in letters can be charged with promoting contraband and currently has one active warrant for a person who attempted to do so. In the meantime, jail officials continue to open letters to inmates and attempt to control any incoming drugs.

“People can send pictures — the prisoners are allowed to have two pictures. We check the envelope and give them the pictures but the envelopes are discarded,” he added.

Mosley said jail officials continue to try to help inmates who want to be drug-free. Various programs are offered at the jail for those wishing to participate. Soon, the jail will offer a library cart in which inmates can check out books to encourage reading and self-help publications.

“This is an effort to get them to read positive self-help materials. We don’t allow magazines that have staples in them because the inmates use those for tattoos. We have to be very careful about what we offer,” he said. “The problem is, unfortunately, the people we are trying to protect our inmates from is usually themselves.”

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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