In a Pennsylvania federal prison, Joe used to trace his girlfriend’s handwriting with his finger as the faint smell of her perfume wafted into his cell. Her letters elicited rare feelings of intimacy in an otherwise cold environment. But after his facility, United States Penitentiary Canaan, replaced physical mail with photocopies in 2019, those feelings have disappeared.
“It’s just like receiving a fake dollar bill,” Joe told The Intercept in an email through a prison communications system. The Intercept is using a pseudonym because Joe fears retaliation from prison staff.
Over the past two years, dozens of facilities across the Federal Bureau of Prisons, or BOP, which oversees approximately 156,000 people and 122 facilities, have adopted policies of…