prisons offer inmate tablets
W.Va. – West Virginia’s Division of Corrections and
Rehabilitation has made electronic tablets available to inmates at its prison
These handheld devices are specifically
designed for correctional settings. Their safety features include a highly
secure, customized operating system and wide-ranging access controls. At no
cost to taxpayers, Global Tel Link provides the tablets through its inmate
banking services contract with the state’s prison system.
Available tablet apps offer email, video
visitation, and multimedia including electronic and audio books, music, games
and movies. They lack a normal browser, but do allow access to select websites
through GTL’s secure proprietary wireless network. The roster of sites covers
several categories: news; education and career; health and wellness; religion
and spirituality; legal and finance; and sports and entertainment. The devices
will soon help inmates submit requests, file and pursue grievances, and order
from the facility commissary.
“The tablets give inmates the incentive to
behave and follow the rules, so they don’t lose this privilege,” said DCR
Regional Director J.T. Binion. “They have given inmates an opportunity to visit
with family and friends who are not able to make it to the facility. It allows
their children to have more contact with them This has seemed to improve inmate
Free apps include the popular Khan
Academy, developed by the international educational non-profit and featuring 7,000
videos and 20,000 interactive exercises on such subjects as math, science,
history, economics. Another is CareerOneStop from the U.S. Department of Labor,
offering a full range of career, training, and job search resources to assist
with offender reentry.
All apps and sites are DCR-approved. Each
facility can set additional limits. Inmates do not pay for the devices, but as
with regular tablets some apps carry fees. The control features allow
facilities to monitor every active tablet at all times and shut off one, some
or all as necessary. Inmates cannot access device settings other than volume,
screen rotation, and brightness.
GTL has around 130,000 tablets at
correctional facilities across the country, including 867 at the 10 DCR prison
facilities. West Virginia’s tablet program began as a pilot at the Saint Marys
Correctional Center last year. Then-Superintendent Patrick Mirandy said he saw
the tablets improve facility safety for both staff and inmates.
“Having access to email communication
allowed for less paper mail to be processed through our mail room,” said
Mirandy, now operations chief for DCR’s Bureau of Community Corrections.
“This afforded staff to spend more time looking for contraband that may be
contained in the mail.”
Mirandy also recalled when an inmate was
unable to attend his father’s funeral on a furlough because it was
“He wrote a eulogy and had his sister read
it at their father’s funeral while he observed through video visitation on the
tablet,” Mirandy said. “He was most appreciative, and this would not have been
possible in the past without the tablets.”
After the months-long trial period, the
program expanded over time to the other prison facilities. DCR plans to
eventually offer them at the Bureau of Community Correction’s work-release
centers. A longer-term goal is to provide them at the state’s 10 regional
jails, through a future inmate services contract.