CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s correctional authorities say they are thwarting efforts to smuggle drugs to inmates inside mail that appears to come from their lawyers.

Known as privileged mail, it gets special protection to preserve attorney-client confidentiality.

However, authorities say they have stopped multiple attempts to use those privacy privileges in mailings that, for example, hide drugs within fabricated or stolen stationery from law firms.

Corrections Commissioner Mike Coleman says inmates and their co-conspirators “compromise the integrity of the attorney-client privilege” as well as safety.

Authorities say that a new, continuously changing alphanumeric code allows the state’s prisons and jails to identify legitimate privileged legal mail and to flag contraband.

West Virginia’s Public Defender Services developed the coding system.

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