Tablet Computers for Inmates

201512.01

Sony TabletA new movement has been spreading across jails located all around the country. The trend involves giving inmates access to tablet computers. The mobile devices can do most of what a regular laptop can do but is small enough to hold in the hand without effort. The tablets are intended to give inmates something to do while serving time in jail.

Arguments For and Against

Arguments for and against distributing tablets to inmates are coming from many different places. Some of the most vocal opponents of the program come from within the law enforcement community. The very people who are guarding the inmates believe that giving them tablets is a bad idea. Some of the reasons given are because of actual incidents that have already occurred in jails were tablets were or are given to inmates.

Tablets could potentially help people who are sitting in jail waiting for trial after being arrested. A tablet could be used to help organize a defense. The tablets are a pale option for this when compared to just posting bail. These defendants can contact a bail bond agency once arrested. The agency will collect a small fee based on the amount of bail needed. A bondsman will guarantee the full amount of bail with the court. The defendant is then released from jail. Being outside of jail makes it much simpler for defendants to coordinate with defense attorneys. Posting bail is more effective than paying for a tablet in jail.

One problem is that there have been inmates who attempted to reset the tablets to the factory settings. This would have disabled the software installed on the device that limits what sites inmates can visit and what functions they can access. Another possible problem is that only certain inmates are allowed to access tablets based on the charges landing the person in jail and behavior. If an inmate gets a tablet, then someone who was banned from using one could try to intimidate the person into handing the device over. A final concern for some officers working in jails is that the tablets will become weapons.

Department of Corrections

The Department of Corrections and a few others support the idea of giving inmates tablets. A primary reason for this support is that studies have shown that providing inmates with something to do tends to reduce the amount of violence and problems in a jail. A second argument in favor of giving inmates access to tablets is that they can provide educational opportunities. The tablet can become a powerful learning tool. Educating inmates helps to lower recidivism rates. This can be beneficial in the long run by reducing jail populations and allowing released inmates to become contributing members of society.

The tablets are not given to inmates for free. Some jails provide the tablets temporarily and only in supervised areas. The Department of Corrections wants to institute a plan where inmates are able to buy tablets through the commissary in the jail. The inmates would also be able to buy music and movies to stream on the tablets. The debate over this issue is not done although it seems to be inevitable since contracts for tablets are already being negotiated.