Maryland Drops Proposal To Ban Inmate Letters In Bid To Stop Suboxone Smuggling

By McCarton Ackerman 07/25/16

In June, Maryland prison officials proposed that unofficial mail be sent as postcards to prevent Suboxone strips from being concealed inside envelopes.

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Maryland Drops Proposal To Ban Inmate Letters In Bid To Stop Suboxone Smuggling

Prisoners, their families and their loved ones are breathing a sigh of relief after Maryland prison officials announced that they were withdrawing a proposal to ban prisoners from receiving letters in order to halt drug smuggling. 

Local news outlet NBC 4-Columbus reported that the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services proposed the emergency regulations in June to a state legislative panel. State prison officials wanted to require unofficial mail to be sent as postcards so that Suboxone strips can no longer be concealed inside envelopes. State figures show that over 3,000 hits of Suboxone were intercepted in Maryland prisons last year, 44% of which were found in letters being sent to inmates.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and inmate advocacy organizations spoke out against the letter ban, declaring that it would significantly reduce inmates’ rights.

“The proposal would rob families of one of the most profoundly significant forms of communication in our society,” said the ACLU in a statement. “Under the new scheme, an ailing mother could not send her son a letter for him to hold onto after she is gone. A teen could not write her mom to tell her the things she can’t say in a visit … [Letters are] one of the most critical factors in a person’s success upon release.”

Former inmates have also spoken out against the ban, declaring that their time behind bars would have been significantly harder without contact from the outside world via letters.

“We want people to come home as successful and self-sufficient and civically engaged, and part of that is staying in touch with the rest of the world and in your children’s lives,” said Teresa Hodge, who spent 70 months behind bars for investment fraud and has since co-founded Mission: Launch Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to facilitating the re-entry of inmates into society. “The biggest concern is, what condition will we return people in, and how will they connect post-incarceration? The fact that we’d make communicating with family, friends, support network even more challenging is really disturbing.”

Maryland would have become the first state to impose a letter ban for inmates. Several states have implemented other measures in an attempt to shut down drug-filled letters. In 2013, Utah put a ban on pictures decorated with stickers, markers crayons or glue. The New Hampshire prison system also put out a similar ban last year on artwork and greeting cards containing those items, prompting a lawsuit from the ACLU.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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