New system to allow Ohio inmates to get e-mail - Cincinnati News, Weather, Sports from FOX19 NOW-WXIX

New system to allow Ohio inmates to get e-mail

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A new system that allows Ohio inmates to get e-mail could help save the state money and cut down on contraband, which often arrives in regular mail, prison officials said.

 The state is setting up a system to allow inmates to view e-mail messages from friends and family. Ohio will become the 13th state, along with Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, to use the e-mail system, which will debut Feb. 23 at the Madison Correctional Institution in London and expand to all 31 state prisons a month later.

"We very strongly believe that contact with friends and family, community involvement, helps inmates stay engaged and prepares them for re-entry to the community," said Julie Walburn, spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

 The system will dramatically reduce the 14.7 million pieces of mail flowing in and out of the prisons each year and relieve pressure on staff members handling mail, she said. Inmates will not have Internet access. Friend and family members will register online with a private contractor and pay a fee ranging from $1 to $12 per month, depending on how many messages are sent. The e-mails will be printed at prisons and delivered to the inmate, who can make a handwritten response that will be scanned and sent electronically by prison staff.

JPay Inc., the Miami-based private contractor, eventually will install kiosks in prisons where inmates can type an e-mail reply. Even then, however, they would be able to respond only to someone who sent them an e-mail, Walburn said. E-mail senders will be able to include electronic attachments, such as photos, but they will be subject to the same restrictions as regular mail: no nude pictures or pornography.

L.D. Hay, marketing director for JPay, said the company connects with about 1 million inmates housed in prison systems nationwide. The company also offers a video-conferencing service that allows family members to "visit" their loved ones in prison from their own home. Those features are not part of the Ohio contract.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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