Giving Compass' Take:

• A byproduct of new anti-drug smuggling policies in prisons is limits on visitation, which has shown to reduce recidivism. 

• How can donors support research that finds alternative solutions for prisoners? 

• Read about how broken parole systems keep prisons full. 

People are getting more creative about smuggling drugs into jails and prisons.

What might appear to be a normal letter to an inmate could be saturated with liquid K2, a synthetic marijuana. An average-looking greeting card may be concealing drugs between its layers. In August, Pennsylvania state prisons went on a nearly two-week lockdown after the Department of Corrections claimed about 60 staffers were sickened by synthetic cannabinoids.

In 2015, New Hampshire banned drawings, greeting cards and colored paper. The state also limited prisoners' hugs with visitors to three seconds. Some jails have gone further, replacing in-person visits with video calls. Last year, Maryland prison officials unsuccessfully tried to limit inmates’ book access to just two vendors. Florida announced plans to cut down on contraband by housing prisoners outside their home counties.

Policies like these have been met with pushback from inmates, their families and legal advocates, who say this increased isolation violates inmates' rights, strains their relationships and harms their mental health.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel says his department is working to fix the problems with image quality, but he believes the policy is necessary to ensure the safety of staff and inmates.

Research shows that visitation helps to reduce the risk of recidivism and facilitate better mental health. Prisoners with regular contact from loved ones and a strong support system are more likely to have success upon release, says Johanna Folk, a postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry who studies how community connectedness affects inmates. Studies are less clear on whether the medium of communication -- in-person versus video -- has a significant effect, she says. Still, access to video calls can provide more flexibility for inmates when families cannot travel to see them.

Read the full article about prisoner rights by Candice Norwood at Governing magazine.