County jail mail to go digital

A change in the way mail will be delivered to Bartholomew County Jail inmates will help eliminate contraband being smuggled into the facility.

Effective Jan. 3, all mail sent to inmates at the Columbus facility will be digital, which means those locked up in the facility will not be provided any physical forms of incoming mail after that date.

The jail will begin utilizing the ‘Earth Class Mail’ scanning service on Dec. 6. Inmates will be given one month to inform family and friends of the change before physical mail is no longer accepted, jail Commander Maj. John Martoccia said.

In any jail or prison, mail is a big source of contraband smuggling, Martoccia said.

“For example, they can soak the paper in drugs,” the jail commander said. “There’s all kinds of ways they hide things in mail, so there will be no more contraband coming in that way.”

Currently, all mail sent directly to inmates in Columbus has to be physically sorted and examined for illegal contents by jail staff, he said. Utilizing the “Earth Class Mail” service will free up those personnel to perform other tasks, he said.

Letters, correspondence and photographs will be sent to be scanned in San Antonio, Texas, Martoccia said.

Once the mail is scanned in San Antonio, it should immediately become available for viewing by the inmate at the jail’s communications kiosk, which currently includes telephone and texting services, Martoccia said. Even though the mail has to be sent for scanning, the delivery time of the digital version should be the same as it is now, if not quicker, he said.

“If pictures of an inmate’s child is sent, he or she can go to the kiosk and look at them whenever they want,” the jail commander said. “However, there is a limit to how many photographs can be sent.”

Several jails and prisons have gone to the Earth Class Mail to try to cut down on contraband, Martoccia said. But he advises there are items that will not be scanned for inmates. They include books, magazines, catalogs, advertising mailers and junk mail.

Inmates do have access to books and Bibles within the jail for reading material, jail officials said.

Earth Class Mail describes itself as the leading virtual mailbox and virtual address provider in the U.S., allowing customers to take their postal mail paperless. Services include mail scanning, automatic check deposit, and cloud integrations.

The company employs HIPAA-certified technicians who can turn paper mail and documents into high resolution, searchable PDFs that integrate with other cloud-based applications. Customers can deposit checks, pay bills, and share documents online without ever touching an envelope.