Cambria County Prison

The Cambria County Prison in Ebensburg is shown in May 2016.

EBENSBURG – Cambria County Prison inmates can no longer receive personal letters sent directly to the prison, a new policy that prison officials said is designed to keep drugs and other contraband items from entering the facility.

“The prison no longer accepts any personal mail delivered directly to the institution,” Bill Patterson, the prison’s first deputy warden, said during Wednesday’s meeting of the Cambria County Prison Board.

Warden Christian Smith said after the meeting that the prison’s contract with TextBehind, a Maryland-based company that bills itself as a provider of “inmate mail management software and service,” went into effect on Dec. 2.

Friends and relatives of prison inmates now have two options to send mail to those inmates, Patterson said. They can send messages and photographs through TextBehind’s website, www.textbehind.com, or its mobile application; those messages and photographs will then be printed out at the prison and distributed to inmates.

Alternatively, they can mail letters and photographs to TextBehind’s premises in Maryland, where they will be photocopied. Those copies will then be sent to the prison, printed out and distributed. Patterson said that, according to the prison’s contract, TextBehind will pay for the printer, printer toner and maintenance for the printer.

The prison will continue accepting legal mail for inmates.

“This new procedure eliminates the possibility of any contraband entering the facility through inmate personal mail,” Patterson said, calling the use of mail to conceal drugs “a real problem” both at the Cambria County Prison and in state prisons. As an example of how letters can be used to deliver contraband, he said that there have been cases in which paper has been soaked in illicit substances.

More information on the new policy, including the address of TextBehind’s Maryland premises and guidelines for sending mail to the prison, is available online at www.cambriacountypa.gov/prison.aspx in a .PDF file called “New Inmate Mail Procedures.”

Mark Pesto is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkPesto.

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