Updated mail policy allows photo books for Pennsylvania inmates

This June 1, 2018, file photo, shows a housing unit in the west section of the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix in Collegeville, Pa. (Jacqueline Larma/AP Photo, File)

This June 1, 2018, file photo, shows a housing unit in the west section of the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix in Collegeville, Pa. (Jacqueline Larma/AP Photo, File)

Pennsylvania’s prison system is updating its mail policy — the latest move in a long string of security changes.

But while many of those changes prompted concern among inmates’ rights groups, those groups are welcoming this one.

Starting this week, those in state prisons can receive photo books — the kind that can be designed and ordered online. The books — required to be soft-bound with 25 or fewer pages — must be sent to prisons directly from a third-party manufacturer.

The Pennsylvania Corrections Department’s been routing almost all inmate mail to a processing facility in Florida since September — a protocol that began after a rash of drug smuggling scares.

The mail is returned to Pennsylvania as a copy. And since the new procedure began, inmates have complained  that the quality is sometimes so bad, pictures are useless.

Miracle Jones of the Abolitionist Law Center said this is a big improvement — though the group isn’t thrilled inmates’ loved ones will have to spend more to send photos.

“It’s still incarceration,” she said. “It’s still industry being involved in communication, and that’s always going to give us pause. But it’s still a win for so many people, and so we celebrate this win with them.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said it is still looking for a way to improve mail scans.

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