There are a number of prison systems in recent years that have implemented an innovative program –tablets for the inmates.
Fox News reported that the Indiana Department of Corrections proposed an initiative at the beginning of this year that would give every inmate in the state's prison system a tablet “as part of a system-wide technology push.” The tablets that would be given out would be secure and permit the inmates to do a number of different things including communicate with their families and take advantage of educational and personal development programming. In addition to these options, the tablet would also “provide inmates with paid entertainment, including movies and music.”
The tablets would not be regular tablets that a person could purchase from a store like an iPad, but would instead be specially built for prison use. The initiative would outfit the state's 23 prisons with “secure networks and electronic kiosks.” The executive director of the Department of Correction stated that they've found that using positive reinforcement results in better performance and better behavior. For example, entertainment is a feature that the prison could use as a reward for good behavior. They stated that previously they used a consequence based system.
In addition to allowing inmates to talk to their families and gain an education, it also gives inmates who may have been in prison for a considerable amount of time the ability to learn how to use modern technology.
The program was actually implemented in at least one Indiana prison recently, according to WISH-TV. Over 700 inmates at the Allen County Jail have received tablets. The tablets were provided by the jail's phone company and permit inmates to “make phone calls, send short messages through emails and purchase games, music, and books.” In addition, the inmates will be able to access legal documents as well as religious materials from their devices. However, for certain features, the inmates will have to pay a fee. For example, the cost for a 30-day music subscription is $24.99 and the cost of a 30-day subscription for eBooks is $3.99.
While a variety of features are available on the tablets, the devices are not connected to the internet and the devices are monitored by jail officials. WISH-TV reports that Sheriff David Gladieux was not initially “on board with the idea” as “he didn't want to pamper inmates.” However, after research, he found that “tablets made things safer by cutting down on fights between inmates and between inmates and guards. Plus, they helped to lower suicide attempts.”
Indiana is not the only state that has enacted this type of program. According to the Denver Post, Colorado has a tablet program in its prisons and other states like Arizona and California have also tested out this type of program in their correctional facilities. Other states that have either proposed or implemented a program in some of its prisons include South Dakota, Alabama, New York, Texas, and Tennessee.
Washington also has a tablet program in some of its prisons through a company called JPay. According to the Department of Corrections website, friends and family can buy a JPay Player, which is a tablet-type device, for an incarcerated individual that lets that person have "access to music, FM radio, games, and to read/write emails."