Incarceration 101

“Mail call–it can be the best or worst part of your day.”

Changed Choices Pre-Release client

Like just about everything these days, communication with residents of the justice system has changed dramatically since 2020. Gone are the days of sending letters to inmates through the US postal system, especially in North Carolina. In February of 2020, The N.C. Department of Public Safety began testing TextBehind, a third party vendor, with female correctional facilities. Beginning October of 2021, TextBehind began processing mail for North Carolina’s male correctional facilities.

Why the change? Per the NCDPS website:

TextBehind is safer, faster and cheaper.

  • NCDPS wants its prisons to be as safe and secure as possible for staff and offenders.
    • One way drugs and other contraband enter prisons is through the mail.
    • Scanning and printing mail will reduce the amount of drugs coming in.
    • We anticipate less drug use, risk of overdose and violence by offenders for control of the drug trade.
    • It will also reduce the risk of accidental contact with dangerous substances.
  • Mail should reach offenders sooner.
    • TextBehind will forward mail sent by app within one business day of receiving it.
    • Mail sent by the app is not subject to postal delivery delays.
    • For paper mail, scanning and printing the contents reduces inspection delays.
  • Fees to send mail by the app (starting at 49 cents) are less than a stamp.
    • Other than postage, there are no fees to send paper mail.
    • NCDPS (and taxpayers) will not pay for anything, not even the paper copies. TextBehind provides the printers and printer maintenance to all 55 prisons.

North Carolina is just one of several states using a third party vendor for correctional facility mail, and several legislators are wrestling with what is lost when physical mail is limited:

“It seems so draconian to suddenly find that inmates could no longer get drawings from their kids.”

“I have cards I received from Changed Choices card writers that I carry with me always.”

What do we lose when physical reminders of support and connection go away?

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