FORT WORTH, Texas — As of Sunday, Texas prison inmates can no longer receive greeting cards on colored paper from their children and loved ones.

The new policy – named Inspect 2 Protect – was approved in February as a way to eliminate contraband, such as drugs, from coming into prisons through the mail, said Jeremy Desel, Texas Department of Criminal Justice director of communications.

Beginning in March, inmates will only be allowed to get mail from general correspondents on standard white paper. Mail received on colored, decorated, card stock, construction, linen, or cotton paper will be denied, the new TDCJ rules state.

Letters sent to offenders may not contain uninspectable substances such as perfume, stickers, lipstick, bodily fluid, powdery substances, or artwork using paint, glitter, glue, or tape. Offenders may only receive greeting cards directly from an approved third-party vendor.

Desel said a significant amount of drugs were getting into prisons on paper dipped into liquid drugs and then dried. Greeting cards that had been laced with SIM cards that are used in cellphones have also been found during searches, Desel said.

In a tweet of a open letter to TDCJ officials, the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and other organizations expressed concerns that the new policy was punitive and would interrupt contact between inmates and their relatives, cost the families of inmates more money and ultimately result in reduced visitation.


Maggie Luna, peer policy coordinator for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, said that visitation and communication are already difficult for some families and adding more restrictions is going to make people stop visiting and stop writing.

“Some people don’t have families,” Luna said. “Some nonprofits have card-writing sessions to communicate with people on their list. Some children with parents in prison are involved in those card-writing sessions and they can’t even speak yet. But they can draw mommy or daddy a picture. That’s going to stop.”

The greeting card ban is only a part of a slate of new procedures prison officials are implementing this month in their efforts to keep drugs and other contraband from getting into state prisons.

Certified narcotic canines will be used strategically to detect narcotics and synthetic marijuana on visitors entering facilities. Searches on staff have already been implemented.

The individual the canine alerts on will not be allowed to visit any offender that visitation cycle or that weekend. If a certified narcotic canine alerts on a child visitor, all adult visitors accompanying the child will not be allowed to visit any offender that visitation cycle.

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