County jail switching inmate mail to electronic tablets

PONTIAC (AP) —The Oakland County jail is scrapping normal postal mail delivery for inmates and switching their communications over to specialized electronic tablets.

The move eliminates the hand-processing of incoming and outgoing inmate mail and keeps contraband and illegal drugs from entering the facility through mail, according to the Oakland County sheriff’s office in Pontiac.

The sheriff’s office is working with Florida-based technology company Smart Communications, which is providing enough tablets to be shared by inmates.

All inmate postal mail now will be sent to Smart Communications where it will be screened and scanned into a high-definition color copy, the sheriff's department said in a news release.

It then will be delivered electronically to inmates. They also will have access to a library on the tablets which will include education, substance abuse resources, cognitive behavior programming, as well as a complete law library.

Jail operations are expected to be streamlined and staff that had been screening mail are able to be redeployed “to where they are needed most in the jail,” said Sheriff Michael Bouchard.

It currently costs jail inmates anywhere from .75 cents to $1 to send a first-class letter with envelope and postage, according to Administrative Lt. Steven Schneider.

Smart Communications charges .50 cents to send an electronic mail message/letter which is equivalent to about six to seven typed pages. That saves inmates and their families about .25 cents per letter.

Color photos cost about $1 each.

“All the contents of what they send and receive are saved so they can access the information when they get released,” Schneider wrote in an email.


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