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What Can’t You Send to an Inmate in New York? Apples, Used Books and More

The amount of contraband recovered in prisons increased 74 percent from 2013 to 2017, with the amount that entered through the package room increasing 64 percent, according to Anthony J. Annucci, the corrections department’s acting commissioner.

Mr. Annucci said the department’s priority is inmate safety: As people have found more creative ways to circumvent traditional screening techniques, inmates’ fatal overdoses have spiked, he said, adding that 27 other states use so-called “secure vendors.”

Mr. Annucci said prices for products would be kept down by competition among vendors, six of whom have been announced so far, with at least two more to come. The department has no financial arrangement with the vendors, and would not take a share of their profits, Mr. Annucci said.

But a look at the catalogs published online showed inflated prices on popular items. One vendor was selling a package of Oreo cookies for more than $5, compared to around $3 at a local discount store or mass retailer. Another vendor was selling a single plain T-shirt for $10, even though many stores sell entire bulk packages for less, said Caroline Hsu, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society. Vendors may also charge shipping and handling fees.

Mr. Beck said the marked-up prices could force financially strained families to make difficult choices.

“People are going to have to decide, do I go on a visit, or do I buy this more expensive stuff? They might be giving up one or the other because of the cost of this,” he said.

The department has been considering a secure vendor program for years and announced its plans for the pilot program at Greene, Green Haven and Taconic Correctional Facilities in early December. But the policy attracted significant backlash this

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