Seminole company on front lines of mail safety

- A company in Pinellas County receives thousands of letters a day, addressed to jail and prison inmates in 20 states.

Specially-trained workers opened and scan the letters. Then, electronic copies of the mail are emailed to the jails and prisons where inmates read them on a computer terminal or tablet.

Smart Communications in Seminole is one of many places around the country that works to ensure mail is safe. The company was founded in 2009 and employs around 50 people at its Seminole headquarters.

They were hired by officials who decided allowing letters into the jail is too dangerous.

"Letters are the last conduit where people have to send something physical and it's going to to contact someone else physically," said Jon Logan, CEO of Smart Communications, which developed the MailGuard Postal Mail Elimination System.

Logan said dozens of inmates have died across the nation from contraband sent in letters to prisons and jails.

Smart Communications recently finalized a multi-million dollar agreement with the Pennsylvania prison system.

In Polk County,  Sheriff Grady Judd contracted with Smart Communications for the same reason. Judd held a press conference last September saying letters - disguised as legal documents-  were laced with synthetic marijuana and poison bug spray. He said inmates smoked or ate the letters to get high.

"You may be a criminal, you may be a drug user, but we care and we're going to do our best to keep you from killing yourself whether you like it or not," said Judd at the press conference last September. 

The  Polk County Jail is now paperless. Inmates read their mail on a computer terminal at a kiosk.

Logan says people who send mail to inmates now know their letters are going to Smart Communications because of the address.

"Once people realize that whatever they send in the mail doesn't actually physically reach that person, they quit sending it," said Logan.

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