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story.lead_photo.caption An inmate uses an email kiosk at the Benton County Jail in Bentonville. The inmates no longer receive mail from family and friends at the jail and it cut out one way contraband could get into the jail, according to Sheriff's Office officials.

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County Jail inmates are receiving their mail electronically, which has cut down one way drugs or any contraband gets into the facility.

"People would be surprised by what some people try to get in the jail through the mail," said Sgt. Shannon Jenkins, spokeswoman for the Benton County Sheriff's Office.

Mail system

SmartJailMail.com connects family and friends with inmates, prisoners and detainees in correctional institutions using a fast, low cost and easy to use two-way email style electronic messaging system, according to the service.

Source: Staff report

Photo by NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF • @NWABENGOFF
An inmate uses an email kiosk Friday at the Benton County Jail in Bentonville. The jail is using SmartJailMail. The program allows inmates to communicate with family and friends who open an account with the service.

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The jail is using SmartJailMail. The program allows inmates to communicate with family and friends who open an account with the service, Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the service began Jan. 1.

The inmates no longer receive mail from family and friends at the jail and it cut out one way contraband could get into the jail.

Each inmate has an account and family members or friends can set up their own accounts free of charge, Jenkins said.

Smart Communications runs MailGuard in conjunction with SmartJailMail's messaging system, according to Correctional News, a publication dedicated to correctional facility construction, maintenance and operations.

MailGuard receives the inmate postal mail at a local post office and the inmate's mail is scanned into an electronic document and sent to his or her SmartJailMail account, according to Correctional News.

Inmates can read their messages on tablets or Kiosks, but Jenkins said inmates in the Benton County Jail can only view their mail on kiosks because inmates don't have tablets.

There are 45 kiosks in the jail. As of Friday afternoon there were 575 inmates in the jail.

Jenkins said there's no cost to the jail.

Inmates, along with their family and friends, pay 50 cents per message, the same cost as a first-class postage stamp, Jenkins said. It cost family members and friends of inmates $1 to send a photograph to an inmate.

Jenkins said there's only one charge. For example, if a family member sends a message the inmate isn't charged 50 cents for opening the message. It's the same when an inmate pays the 50 cents to send a message -- the person who receives it doesn't have to pay to open the message.

Inmates don't have access to print photographs, Jenkins said.

Jenkins said inmates can send as many messages as they want as long as they have the money in their accounts.

Family members or friends with accounts pay 50 cents per message and $1 to send photographs, Jenkins said. Inmates can send messages, but not photographs. People can set up an account for free and each inmate has an account, she said.

Correctional News reported in October that SmartJailMail was the first electronic messaging system used in a county jail.

"MailGuard finally eliminates a major problem and major security loophole that every correctional agency has struggled with since the beginning of incarceration: contraband, labor and secret communication from inmate postal mail," Smart Communications CEO Jon Logan told Correctional News.

Inmates can still mail letters, but many prefer email because they can receive a response faster than waiting days for traditional mail, Jenkins said.

Lt. Cody Burk of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office said they're interested in the technology and have looked at several vendors, but there are no plans to change the jail's mail system. Burk said they have a clerk who opens and checks the mail for contraband and the mail is then given to inmates.

Inmates in the Washington County Detention Center receive mail through the postal service, but that may change.

Maj. Randall Denzer with the Washington County Sheriff's Office said they are looking at two systems, and he expects a decision soon.

The biggest reason for the change is to prevent drugs from getting into the jail, according to Denzer.

"They are always putting something in the mail," he said. "Second, we are a mini post office. Six hundred and fifty detainees is like a small city."

Denzer said using one of the services could free help for other tasks.

NW News on 02/18/2018

Print Headline: Message system in Benton County Jail for inmates

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