Inmates Still Use Typewriters, but Federal Prisons Introduce Email


Debunking a report that the world’s last typewriter factory is closing, The Daily Feed newsletter says the Moonachie, N.J.-based Swintec produces typewriters in China, Japan, and Indonesia, and one of its best markets is U.S. prisons. “We have contracts with correctional facilities in 43 states to supply clear typewriters for inmates so they can't hide contraband inside them,” says the firm’s general manager, Ed Michael. “We even make clear cassette ribbons for them.” Swintec makes slightly different typewriters for different facilities, depending on an institution's specific regulations. New York State permits inmates 7K of memory, Washington State allows 64K, and Michigan lets prisoners have 128K machines. For the most restrictive institutions, Swintec manufactures typewriters with no memory.

Even in prisons, typewriters may lose the battle to email. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has started an inmate computer system called TRULINCS. It lets inmates send and receive email (up to 13,000 characters) at dedicated kiosks without allowing them access to the Internet. It is expected to be fully up and running in all BOP facilities by June. On the state level, Washington — one of Swintec's customers — is also experimenting with email, which prisons director Dan Pacholke asserts “reduces smuggling threats and costs less to process and read than paper mail.”

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