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New Camp Hill State Prison electronic mail system helping to eliminate contraband issues

LOWER ALLEN TOWNSHIP, CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. -- Pennsylvania state prisons are turning to a new electronic inmate mail system.

This comes after dozens of corrections workers reported feeling sick after being exposed to a synthetic substance, prompting a state-wide prison lockdown last month.

“Everybody in here thought well, it’s just a matter of time before it happens to us," said Zach Fahnestock, corrections mailroom supervisor at Camp Hill State Prison.

In many cases, that ‘substance’, coming through the prison's mail room.

However, mail room employees at Camp Hill State Prison in Cumberland County, say they can now rest easy.

That's because since the state-wide lockdown, all inmate mail is sent to a company in Florida and sent back electronically to the prison.

"They scan all the mail front and back of the envelope, front and back of the letters, front and back of the pictures and then they put it into the system," said Fahnestock.

Mail room employees at the prison log into that system and print the documents to be distributed to inmates within the prison.

Officials say the new electronic mail system is helping to eliminate what has been a problem in the past.

“The mail was a huge avenue for introduction of contraband throughout the department," said William Niclow with the Bureau of investigation and intelligence at Camp Hill State Prison.

“Having the mail come in as a copy so the inmates aren’t receiving the original source of the mail, it’s cut down dramatically on the synthetic cannabinoids that we’re seeing throughout the facility and buprenorphine," he added.

“We haven't have any exposures, we haven't have any incidents finding any contraband in the mail and that’s what we have been trying to cut back on," added Fahnestock.

Officials with Pennsylvania Department of Corrections say they plan to implement more changes in the coming months in effort to keep drugs out and to continue to make prisons safer.