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How Correctional Facilities Can Use American Rescue Plan Funds

To Reduce COVID Risk, Stop Illegal Drug Contraband, and Improve Safety by Investing in Mail Screening Operations

The American Rescue Plan (ARPA) regulation that was signed into law is a tremendous opportunity to invest in programs and projects to increase public health and public safety as communities recover from COVID-19.  This blog provides an overview of how improving mail screening operation qualifies for ARPA funding and why it is beneficial to correctional facilties.

RaySecur ARPA Resources

Funding requests require DETAILED PROPOSALS DESCRIBING HOW the project MEETS CRITERIA.

The following documents were created to ease the proposal creation and submission process.

Guide to American Rescue Plan Funding for Mail Screening: 

Overview of ARPA regulation, criteria and application process.

BUTTON: READ THE ARPA GUIDE

Check-list for ARPA Funding Submission:

Outlines all the data necessary to complete and submit the your ARPA proposal in an easy to use editable PDF document.

Download the ARPA Check-list

Flexible spending allows federal, state, and local governments to fund a range of programs within congregant living facilities, including correctional facilities, that reduce violence, prevent the spread of the coronavirus, reduce medical expenses and improve behavioral health. ARPA has allocated more than $50 billion to reduce the spread, and detect and monitor COVID-19 in jails and prisons nationwide. 1 2    

Several states have submitted ARPA proposals to construct new correctional facilities. However, the U.S. Treasury has rejected these, and released guidance stating these projects are not eligible for COVID relief funds, including:

·      Construction of new correctional facilities as a response to an increase in the rate of crime [and]

·      Construction of new congregate facilities to decrease the spread of COVID-19 in the facility…because such construction is expected to be more costly than alternative approaches that may be equally or more effective in reducing the spread of the disease.

 

This has left states struggling to identify acceptable projects for correctional facilities or otherwise have to revert to using COVID relief for what people might view as more relevant–healthcare, job creation, and education, for instance. 3

 

However, an easier, more cost effective way for prisons and jails to meet ARPA requirements is to enhance their mail detection and screening processes.

Reduce COVID Spread Among Inmate Population

The death rate from COVID-19 in prisons is more than double that of the general U.S. population. As cases and hospitalizations arise from the ongoing variants, there is no doubt that spikes will be seen in prisons across the country. As of February 2022, in state and federal prisons, over 2,900 people have died of COVID-19, almost 476,000 people have been infected, and thousands of additional cases are linked to individual county jails. 4

Limiting the movement of inmates, or correction staff, around the facility, thus reducing exposure, is a successful tactic to mitigate the spread of the virus.  Process and procedure changes were made to accomplish this in many cases. However, one area that remains a problem is the screening of legal mail.  It is a constitutional right that an inmate is present for the inspection of mail originating from their legal team or the U.S. Courts.  This increases the risk of exposure as it requires moving an inmate from a cell to a location that is best suited for this purpose. 

Another COVID mitigation tactic employed early in the pandemic was to decrease the inmate population via early release.  However, as time progresses and the judicial system gets back on track with proceedings, the prison population in the U.S. is climbing back to pre-pandemic levels. This will only increase receipt of mail – legal or otherwise – and the need for increased screening along with it.

Stop the Introduction of Illegal Drug Contraband

According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 2001 to 2018, the number of people who have died of drugs or alcohol intoxication in state prisons increased by more than 600%. In county jails overdose deaths increased by over 200%. 5

There are various ways illegal contraband, such as drugs, gets into prisons and jails, including through visitors or packages and letters to incarcerated people. Strips of drug-laced paper can be tucked into mail or books, and if they get past the mailroom, people in prison can consume them by eating or smoking.

Overdose deaths in prisons may have risen because drug use is widespread and uniquely dangerous because the substances may be of poor quality, tainted, or of unknown strength. In addition, medical care in prisons is not well-equipped or staffed to handle overdose cases.  This has led to an increase of more than 50% between 2014 and 2017 in emergency room visits, and overnight stays in hospitals for drug overdoses, according to state data obtained by The Marshall Project. 6

The smuggling of illegal drugs through the mail is and will continue to be a significant security vulnerability.  The best approach is to have a solution in place that can effectively detect the drug types that are typically missed – powder, liquid, and drug-laced papers.  It is even more important to detect these items concealed in mail items, before they potentially expose facility staff to dangerous or harmful chemicals, while preserving inmate rights. If these harmful substances can be eliminated from the prison population, it will prevent unnecessary deaths and allow the prison to allocate medical and correction resources to other areas.

Preventing and Reducing Violence

Inmates and guards alike are victims of violence in prisons and jails across the country.  These violent acts result from a myriad of conditions: overcrowding, insecure facilities, and policies that weaken family ties, among other. 7

There are two main types of inmate violence:

  • Interpersonal violence occurs between two or more individual inmates, such as a fight or a minor disturbance. It may result from arguments over property, the television, canteen items, insults, and so on.

  • Collective violence is violence between large groups such as gangs and racial supremacist groups. These can escalate into riots and disturbances.

The countermeasures to violence inside a correctional facility are straightforward, such as staying alert, fastidiously following security precautions, but they are not always easy to maintain day in and day out. One that is easier to control is the prevention of contraband and continuous searching of inmate property. 8  Research has shown that drugs are a factor for increased violence in jails and prisons. If an inmate is going through withdrawals, they can become violent and some drugs can make people violent just by using them. Incarcerated gangs members have wars over drugs, and the drug trade. 9

EODSecur and MailSecur the Ideal Solution for Effective Mail Screening in Correctional Facilities

With changes to their mail screening operation, correctional facilities can overcome several challenges outlined in this blog. Even better is that ARPA funding can be used to purchase the solution, and it is easily deployable within any environment.

The MailSecur® solution allows for the quick, highly-accurate detection of illegal drugs and other contraband, including suboxone strips, synthetic marijuana, K2/spice, fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. The MailSecur T-ray technology has 300% higher image sensitivity than standard X-ray technology enabling it to detect all nine CBRNE substances designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – powders, liquids, explosives, contraband, chemicals, illicit items, and radiological, biological, and nuclear materials.

With MailSecur, corrections personnel “see inside” letters and packages to detect concealed or hidden threats that X-ray scanners can’t find, without the need to open the item. Operators view a live, 4D video of the object and can manipulate the item to gain alternate views in real-time. The high image and video clarity allow the operator to see the grains of powder or liquid moving within a letter or parcel. In addition, the screening process is operator safe as the MailSecur solution does not use harmful X-ray technology, thus eliminating the need for radiation licensing and certification.

Unlike large, stationary X-ray machines, the MailSecur desktop scanner can be moved throughout a facility. It operates using a standard power outlet, boots up in seconds, and only weighs 70lbs. This means that mail screening can be brought to the inmate rather than relocating the inmate, lowering the risk of exposure due to COVID or violence.

The MailSecur solution is backed up by the 24×365 EODSecur service, which provides remote screening analysis. Anytime a suspicious item is identified, our support team of former military-trained EOD specialists can assist. They can tap into the MailSecur unit to see the captured images and video to provide analysis and best-practice guidance on remediation steps.

RaySecur has partnered with several state and federal correctional facilities to improve their mail screening operations. The MailSecur scanner has allowed them to detect illegal drugs smuggled in magazines, newspapers and even behind postage stamps.

RaySecur ARPA Resources

FUNDING REQUESTS REQUIRE DETAILED PROPOSALS DESCRIBING HOW THE PROJECT MEETS CRITERIA.

The following documents were created to ease the proposal creation and submission process.

Guide to American Rescue Plan Funding for Mail Screening: 

Overview of ARPA regulation, criteria and application process.

BUTTON: READ THE ARPA GUIDE

Check-list for ARPA Funding Submission:

Outlines all the data necessary to complete and submit the your ARPA proposal in an easy to use editable PDF document

Download the Report