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New Jail Rules Bar Inmates From Getting Books, Undergarments From Friends And Family

Prison cell
Michael Coghlan

Ohio's opiod epidemic has led to some rule changes at the Franklin County Jail.

Starting last month, inmates at the jail can no longer get books, magazines, or other reading materials from friends or family. They have to be purchased new and mailed to the jail by the vendor.

Friends and family are also now banned from taking inmates socks, underwear, or undershirts. Those items have to be purchased new from the jail commissary.

For more on the changes, WOSU's Steve Brown spoke with Chief Deputy Geoff Stobart, who runs the jail.

Click the play button below to hear their conversation.

The following is an automated transcript of the above interview, please excuse all errors in the text.

Steve Brown: The Franklin County Sheriff's Office recently made some changes to the rules at the county jail. Inmates can no longer receive books, magazines or other printed materials from friends or family. They have to be mailed directly from a vendor like Amazon. Joining us now to talk about the changes is Geoff Stobart, he runs the county jail. Thanks your time.

Geoff Stobart: Not a problem.

Steve Brown: Why make this move? Why ban inmates from getting books and magazines from friends and family members?

Geoff Stobart: Well the main reason is contraband control. We've had a significant issue over the past several years with folks attempting to sneak contraband into the facility through obviously the printed materials of the books and whites, underwear, socks, things of that nature. So this is simply an attempt by us to control the contraband being introduced into the facility.

Steve Brown: I'm sure drugs have been an issue as long as there has been a jail, but you're saying there's been an increase in recent years?

Geoff Stobart: Absolutely, obviously with the opioid epidemic and particularly what we're seeing a lot of is a Suboxone. Suboxone is as you know...

Steve Brown: A drug to treat heroin addiction.

Geoff Stobart: It is and what it is is it is also very difficult for us to detect. You know not to give anyone away any secrets but it, you know it looks like almost like a Listerine breath strip that melts in your mouth is so it's very difficult for us to detect.

It's very difficult for our folks to prevent that from coming into the facility so we want to do everything in our power to ensure that type of narcotic is not being introduced into the facility.

Steve Brown: Reading would seem to be one of the more constructive things that inmates could do. I know you have to maintain a secure facility, but is there any concern that you're you're doing harm to inmates by not letting them or at least limiting their ability to read?

Geoff Stobart: And we're not doing that at all. They have the exact same rights to receive printed materials that they've always had, it just as a different method getting them to the facility.

On top of that we also have a fairly robust library of our own that the inmates have access to simply through submitting a call card and requesting that the library cart be brought around with plenty of printed materials.

Steve Brown: And you say you are doing this with underwear socks and t-shirts as well, and these items now have to be purchased from the commissary. Is there a markup on those items? Pardon the pun here, but is the jail making money off a captive audience?

Geoff Stobart: No. Any money that is made from our commissary is minimal and any money that is made has to be go back to something that supports the inmates, such as inmate programs and things of that nature so we're not allowed to make a profit off anything that we sell out of our commissary.

Steve Brown: Geoff Stobart runs the Franklin County Jail. We've been talking about some new jail policies that ban inmates from getting books, magazines, socks, underwear and some other items from friends or family members. Those items have to be purchased new because of increasing concerns about contraband being brought into the jail. Geoff Stobart, thanks again.

Geoff Stobart: Not a problem.