U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Stopping Drugs in the Mail

NCJ Number
Corrections Today
Date Published
2 pages

This report describes a study by the Department of Defense’s Counterdrug Technology Development Program Office (COTDPO) that is testing existing technologies for their usefulness in detecting drugs in mail sent to correctional facilities.


The detection of drugs sent to inmates via the correctional facility mail is a full-time and labor intensive job for many corrections officers. In order to develop a more efficient and cost-effective way of detecting drugs in corrections mail, the COTDPO is in the process of identifying, or possibly developing, technologies that would prevent drugs from entering a correctional institution. Toward this goal, the Defense Department conducted a market survey to identify promising existing technologies and then began testing the technologies in a scenario evaluation that involved the use of a mock mailroom. While two ion mobility spectrometry scanners performed well at detecting the presence of drugs in nanogram amounts, concern emerged over the possibility of false positives because of the sensitivity of the devices. The final analysis will likely recommend either field testing the ion mobility spectrometry scanners in a correctional facility or testing more expensive technologies such as mass spectroscopy, which may have the ability to also detect chemical and biological agents. Contact information is provided for more information.

Date Published: January 1, 2002