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Bedford prison to allow inmates access to email
By: WJAC Web Staff
BEDFORD, Pa. --Bedford County prisoners are going to see something different in upcoming months.
Approved Tuesday by the county commissioners, a new online system is to permit limited email access while streamlining the county jails commissary system, which will save money and prevent embezzlement that allegedly cost the jail $50,000.
In the upcoming months, commissary contractor Oasis Management Systems Inc. will install ATM-style kiosks throughout the Bedford County Correctional Facility, said Warden David Kessling.
The system is to allow prisoners to send an email for $0.50. Word filters will flag suspicious messages for review by jail staff, said Kessling.
Dozens of Pennsylvania state facilities show which prisons participate in the email program.
Oasis, the system, does not allow inmates to use the Internet at large. They are only using a closed system that does not send messages past jail walls, said Commissioner Chairman Kirt Morris.
The idea came from the commissioners after August, when the old secretary Sheila Suter, was arrested on suspicion of embezzling $50,000 in cash. Police said the prisoners funds were replenished from an official account, which made Bedford County prison the victim.
The prisoners deposits will be logged electronically under the new system, said Kessling. When an inmate wants to buy an item from commissary, he or she can deduct it directly from his account balance.
This will bring in more money for the jail, and the sales will go toward prisoner education programs, said Kessling. Under the seven-year contract, Oasis will install kiosks free of charge. All the county must pay for is the internet service and new wiring.
Neither the commissioners nor Kessling showed concern that the new system could potentially propose a security risk.
Kessling said the restrictions set for Bedford would not make email more dangerous than paper mail.