Tablets for Inmates Could Bring Education, Entertainment

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A plan to put a tablet in every Indiana inmate’s hands could help offenders stay connected with their families and improve their education, which are important ways to keep them from returning to prison. The plan is also raising questions about fairness, the Indianapolis Star reports. Could a technology company providing specialized tablets for prison environments take advantage of captive buyers to charge high prices for games, movies and music? Those are some benefits and possible pitfalls of an Indiana Department of Correction technology proposal. The proposal also calls for a secure network and electronic kiosks across the prison system’s 23 facilities. Offenders will be able to use the tablets to access their classwork and self-help materials 24 hours per day. They could more easily order from the commissary, and sift through legal research.

They also could use their tablets to pay for entertainment, with that money going to a private company while the state keeps a 10-percent cut. That’s how the state expects to pay for the tablets. Officials hope that a vendor will front the costs so taxpayers don’t have to. Then the vendor would be reimbursed and earn a profit, as inmates buy music and movies. William Wilson, a prison official, emphasized that any fees collected would be used to reduce the reliance on tax dollars. Charging fees that inmates couldn’t afford would defeat the purpose of the proposal. Officials also expect to use entertainment to reward good behavior. For example, an offender could be encouraged to stop racking up conduct reports in order to play more games. The tablets most likely wouldn’t be the iPads or Kindles you see at home. Companies develop tablets and software for use in prisons and jails. They still have touchscreens and apps, but the devices come with much more security and features that can be controlled by prison officials.


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