Digital Mail Center, Securus Video Connect℠, Tablets
Facility: Butler County Prison
Contact: Warden Joe DeMore CJM, CCE
Situation: Contraband coming through the postal mail threatened the safety of officers and incarcerated individuals at Butler County Prison. The situation became so dangerous that facility staff were rushed to the emergency room after being exposed to an illegal drug as a result of a search within the cell of an incarcerated resident.
Solution: Digital Mail Center, Securus Video Connect℠, Tablets
Results: Leaders at the Butler County Prison turned to Securus Technologies® for a solution to help prevent contraband from entering their prison through the postal service. Securus provides Digital Mail Center because of its ability to increase security, safety and efficiency. This changemaking technology converts postal mail into electronic communications. Securus’ certified investigative staff open, scan and electronically upload incarcerated individual’s mail to the Securus mail management portal.
Here, mail is configured to be reviewed and approved by agency staff or automatically delivered to incarcerated individuals through Securus ConnectUs terminals and Securus tablets. This automation frees personnel from the process of handling incarcerated individual mail so that they can focus on their primary duties.
”Now that we use Digital Mail Center, our people are safer,” said Warden Joe DeMore CJM, CCE. “We experienced the danger of being exposed to K2.”
Prior to receiving Digital Mail Center, officers received a tip that an incarcerated individual was in possession of K2. During the search, the staff sensed an electric burning smell and were contaminated. Four officers and two nurses became sick and received treatment from emergency room staff. Jail personnel reported suffering from a burning throat, nausea, light-headedness and feeling sluggish. These dangers are over now that the agency is using Securus’ digital mail solution.
“I know for a fact since Digital Mail Center that we haven’t detected any contraband, so it definitely helps,” explained DeMore. “With an inmate being caught in possession of K2, being here on a federal case and receiving new charges for the possession, he knew that we weren’t going to allow this to happen, and there would be consequences.”
K2 was also getting into the jail through postal mail. In one example, a loved one pretended to be an attorney by typing what appeared to be a legitimate address for a lawyer’s office in hopes that this package would not be searched. However, through listening to phone recordings with its Securus call platform, officers caught on and found Suboxone hidden between layers of paper, which led to charges for one incarcerated individual and the person sending the Suboxene through the fake attorney mail.
Additionally, now that the facility has Digital Mail Center, attorney mail and publications are the only physical mail delivered to the jail. Officers check with attorney’s offices to verify that they have sent pieces of mail.
“Digital Mail Center is absolutely the best thing we’ve done as far as security in relation to mail. It took away the risks of our employees opening and handling mail with contraband that could cause harm,” emphasized DeMore. “It also lowers the high risk of getting illegal substances in the hands of inmates where they can possibly overdose.”
In fact, DeMore, who serves as the second vice-president to the Pennsylvania Prison Warden’s Association, says with this position he is deeply involved with training at conferences and has good connections with a lot of people.
“I always put out the information on Digital Mail Center and how well it’s working for us,” he shared.
Keeping up with the latest solutions in corrections is important to DeMore, especially during COVID. The facility shut down in-person visits in mid-March, and remarkably no incarcerated individuals have tested positive for the contagion at this writing. However, five staff members have come down with COVID since the beginning of the pandemic. The strategy to preventing the spread of this virus is 24/7 disinfecting including three high-level cleaning Kavaic machines that look like Zambonis used to resurface the ice during hockey games. In this case, the contraption with a suction device uses a special cleaning solution that DeMore states “kills COVID on contact”.
The facility offers PPE training and has medical providers give presentations in town halls to educate staff and incarcerated residents about health precautions. Thermal temperature scanners in the front lobby with digital cameras make sure that anyone entering the facility is not running a fever. Another digital tool that is helping the spread of COVID is Securus Video Connect℠.
“Video Connect has helped tremendously by cutting down on traffic with people coming in and out of our jail and possibly bringing the virus into our facility,” DeMore explained. “With Video Connect, incarcerated individuals can still see loved ones. This tool helps inmates who are nervous and stressed about COVID since they are still able to see their people.”
Securus has provided complimentary video session coupons for the incarcerated individuals. Jail staff especially likes giving them to the incarcerated residents who keep the jail clean.
“Those inmates have done a tremendous job cleaning so we like to reward them. It definitely helps when they can see their families,” he added.
DeMore explains how difficult it can be for incarcerated residents when they are not informed of how their families are doing during the pandemic. He emphasizes that when they do not see their loved ones, it increases their stress level which then causes problems for the staff.
DeMore states that he is thankful that Video Connect has helped his facility keep its COVID numbers down and stresses the importance of the incarcerated individuals’ communication with loved ones.
“I think that the relationships staying active and connected is vital and provide a smoother transition when they’re getting released,” he stated.
Additionally to help prepare incarcerated individuals for reentry, the jail provides Securus tablets. DeMore shares that this technology enables incarcerated residents to spend productive time in their cell instead of getting into fights. The tablets have also helped them stay current on their studies since in-person classes were canceled because of COVID. Securus’ free community tablets offer incarcerated individuals equal access to critical content by providing betterment programs such as education, religion, professional development and parenting as well as resources such as eBooks, job search, law library and mental health.
“Tablets help prepare individuals that are getting out to have greater success based on the curriculum of different programs,” DeMore concluded.