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Missouri prison inmates no longer able to receive books from friends or family

By Reagan Di Trolio

Sep. 25, 2023 

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Inmates in Missouri correctional centers are no longer allowed to receive reading materials purchased by family and friends from a bona fide vendor. This is all under a new policy adopted by the state Department of Corrections beginning on September 25.

These new restrictions come after a decision last year to ban all physical mail from entering DOC facilities. Although family members and friends could not personally bring books to inmates before, now they won’t be able to pick out what books inmates receive.

Lori Curry is the founder and executive director of Missouri Prison Reform, and she said people who are incarcerated continue to lose basic rights they should have.

“We also think, ‘You know this is a way I can send something to my loved one to them know I’m thinking of them for birthdays, holidays, things like that’, so we can no longer do that. Books were the only thing we could send them,” Curry said.

Although this policy is only changing for prisons, county-run jails like the Greene County Jail have been operating with similar rules for years. Paige Rippee with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office said having stricter rules has paid off, especially since there’s drugs being snuck inside books.

“Our biggest focus here is safety and security of the inmates, and we obviously wouldn’t want any type of contraband to come into where, let’s say it was a controlled substance, come in and a whole unit be exposed to where we have overdoses,” Rippee said.

KY3 reached out to the Missouri Department of Corrections. DOC Officials listed smuggling of drugs into prisons through books as the main reason why the policy is enacted.

Curry said it’s more of an issue of other people bringing in the drugs, not necessarily the inmates sneaking them in.

“We believe that most contraband is brought in by people who work in prisons, whether that’s the Department of Corrections, medical workers, the nurses, etc. So we don’t believe this policy is necessary for the drugs,” Curry said.

The DOC said they have encountered several cases in which someone purchased a book from a bona fide vendor, took it out of the store, and tampered with it. Some examples of DOC officials listed are below:

  • Soaking the pages in liquid narcotics
  • Concealing drugs in the spine of the book
  • Drugs such as fentanyl are increasingly being distributed in liquid form, soaked into paper, and can be absorbed through the skin.

DOC officials also said in recent months, its mail room staff have discovered magazines and books — including religious texts — with pages soaked in drugs such as K2 and methamphetamine or with dozens of suboxone strips stuffed into the spines. Staff also have found drug-soaked book and magazine pages in offenders’ cells during cell searches, sometimes after the resident of that cell has ingested the drug and been found unresponsive.

DOC officials said, “We are trying to save lives.”

You can read all about the book ordering process on the DOC website.