- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

BALTIMORE (AP) - The Latest on a state of Maryland proposal to impose the nation’s first total ban on letters sent to prisoners at state facilities (all times local):

2 p.m.

An American Civil Liberties Union attorney says she is relieved Maryland state prison officials have decided to withdraw a proposal to create the nation’s first total ban on letters sent to prisoners in an effort to curb inmate access to a highly addictive drug. But she says the ACLU remains concerned that such a policy was introduced in the first place.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services withdrew the proposal Wednesday. The proposal would have barred inmates in state-run facilities from receiving letters, instead limiting their correspondence to postcards, in order to stop the flow of Suboxone, a drug that can be hidden inside envelopes or soaked into paper. The drug has been flooding into Maryland’s prisons.

Secretary Stephen Moyer said he will form a focus group to come up with an alternative to the ban, and research the most effective procedures to ensure the safety of staff and people in custody.

ACLU staff attorney Sonia Kumar said the organization is “gratified” that the proposal was withdrawn, but said this was “only one of several policy changes that have affected families’ ability to stay in touch.”

She said the policy “should have never been proposed in the first place.”

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11:45 a.m.

State prison officials in Maryland have withdrawn a proposal to create the nation’s first total ban on letters being sent to prisoners in an effort to stop the flow of drugs into state facilities.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services made the announcement Wednesday. The proposal would have banned all letters except for official legal correspondence, and would have allowed postcards. The measure was intended to block access to Suboxone, a highly addictive drug that can be hidden inside envelopes or soaked into paper. The drug has been flooding into Maryland’s prisons.

Stephen Moyer is head of the department. He says he’ll form a focus group to determine the best options for eliminating contraband that arrives in state prison facilities through the mail.

The group also will research the most effective procedures to ensure the safety of staff and people in custody.

The American Civil Liberties Union had pressed prison officials to reconsider the proposal to ban letters.

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5 a.m.

State prison officials in Maryland want to impose the nation’s first total ban on letters being sent to prisoners at state facilities.

They want to limit any mail state inmates get to postcards and official legal correspondence. The reason: Suboxone, a highly addictive drug that can be hidden inside envelopes or soaked into paper, is flooding into Maryland’s prisons.

Emergency regulations to ban nonofficial letters were proposed last month to a state legislative panel by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Now the American Civil Liberties Union is pushing prison officials to reconsider.

Prison authorities report intercepting more than 3,000 hits of Suboxone behind bars last year, roughly 44 percent of which were found in incoming letters.

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