Until February, Colorado inmate Andrew Stiern could speak with his girlfriend on a phone in a day hall only while 10 other inmates listened in and waited impatiently in line behind him. Now the 29-year-old inmate can kick back in the limited privacy of his cell and call his girl on a new computer tablet anytime between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. He can also use the same device to listen to his favorite tunes from a streaming cache of 12 million songs, read books or play video games to his heart’s content, the Denver Post reports. About 8,000 Colorado inmates are part of a pilot program for Inspire, a program of GLT Corp. that expects to deliver tablets to more than 18,000 inmates in all 20 private and public prisons in Colorado and 1.8 million people jailed across the U.S.
Inspire is designed to give inmates access to a wide range of media, including educational programming. It also creates a new revenue stream for the company. Inmates can use the wireless handheld devices when they are not involved in other prison programming, such as GED classes or doing jobs including milking cows in the prison dairy. Colorado is the first state to roll out the Inspire program across all prisons. Smaller programs were tested in county jails in Arizona and California. Colorado officials have embraced the tablet program, believing that it will reduce friction between rival gangs vying for control of wall phones, occupy inmates who have time on their hands and eventually allow them to access vocational and educational programming. Some officials and victims groups are concerned that criminals will find a way to use the tablets to commit new crimes. “I’m a little stunned. They are not there to be catered to and offered all the comforts of home,” said Rob Wells of Families of Victims of Homicide and Missing Persons. His brother, Sid, was murdered in 1983.