Over the past two years, dozens of facilities across the Federal Bureau of Prisons, or BOP, which oversees approximately 156,000 people and 122 facilities, have adopted policies of photocopying mail and withholding the originals from their recipients. Prison officials say the change is an effort to stop drugs that are entering facilities by being sprayed on mail, which officials claim is affecting staff, though there is scant evidence of this phenomenon.
USP Canaan is one of 33 federal facilities in 18 states using prison staff to scan mail in-house, according to an informal survey of incarcerated people’s loved ones conducted by The Intercept. And the Pennsylvania prison was one of two BOP facilities that participated in a recent pilot program to outsource the scanning of mail to a private company. BOP union heads told The Intercept that they are pushing for the bureau to enroll all of its facilities in the private service, known as MailGuard, whose creators boast that it can “gain huge secret intelligence into the public sender of postal mail.”