WICHITA — Kansas prisoners will soon have access to limited electronic banking, e-mail and video family visitations.
It is all part of a move by the Kansas Department of Corrections to improve security in state prisons and reduce contraband, all while reducing staff time to screen regular mail.
For the state's 8,619 inmates and their families, the services will be a more convenient and efficient way to send money, exchange e-mails and digital photos, or visit loved ones from miles away by video links.
There is no cost to taxpayers. The department will make money from commissions whenever inmates use the services, with the money to go into the Inmate Benefit Fund to buy such things as library books in facilities.
E-mails will cost inmates 43 cents apiece, a price set (before the latest postage increase) to match the cost of mailing a letter.
"This was, frankly, done for the benefit of the department to cut down on mailroom processes and the need for us to look at virtually every piece of mail that comes through the mailroom," said DOC spokesman Bill Miskell.
Electronic messaging also will give the department the ability to automatically scan messages for certain words and phrases associated with security threats or criminal activity, he said. A staff member will check attachments, such as digital photos, to ensure they don't contain inappropriate material, such as sexually explicit images.