Effective August 21st, the Arkansas Department of Correction will no longer give inmates the original versions of the mail sent to them, but instead provide photocopies. ADC will also restrict mail to three pages, among a series of other limitations, to allow for the photocopying. This policy is because “the increasing use of illegal drugs has led to the need to limit incoming paper correspondence.”

UPDATE: Solomon Graves, spokesperson for ADC said, “This policy change was a result of intelligence received by the Department that inmates were introducing drugs into the facility by having mail soaked in liquefied drugs or having the drugs placed under stamps. These types of activities have been seen throughout the country in jails and prisons.”


Under the new policy, original mail will be shredded after photocopying and anything that does not fit the new requirements “will be treated as contraband,” the document says. In other words, an inmate will only be given three pages of a five-page letter. The rest will be shredded.

Newsprint is contraband, the policy says, though photocopies of newspaper articles (within the three-page limit) are allowable. Large greeting cards will be destroyed. Some work-release and re-entry facilities are exempted from the rule. Inmates can prevent shredding of correspondence that doesn’t comply with the rule by providing money for return postage within 30 days.


I asked Holly Dickson, legal counsel for the ACLU of Arkansas about this jaw-dropping limitation on communication with inmates.  She commented on the new policy:

I have seen it and agree it has serious constitutional problems; I expect we will be addressing this in one way, shape or form (or a few ways, shapes or forms).

Here’s a summary of the policy.


Arkansas is not the first to change their inmate mail policy to address drug use in prisons. Virigina implemented a similar policy in April and the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the New Hampshire Department of Corrections in 2015 in response to a prohibition of prisoners receiving greeting cards, picture postcards, and drawings in the mail. In both states, officials claimed that drugs that led to inmate overdose deaths came through he mail.

This is the more detailed rule on correspondence.