New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision have struck a deal with JPay, a company that deals with inmate-related services, to provide each and every incarcerated individual in the state of New York with a brand new tablet. A DOC spokesperson announced the deal this week, and was proud to share further information about the initiative. The tablets will not be the kind of mini-computers those outside of the prisons are used.
Instead, will have limited functions that will still allow the inmates to read, communicate with family outside prison, and interact with the DOC’s exployees.
The tablets will grant access to ebooks for inmates, as well as educational content and music. The freedom this represents will be a big step in the prison system for helping inmates transition to life outside of prison.
Through the tablet system, inmates will also be able to file grievances with the DOC system. Though there will not be a general internet access on the tablet, inmates will have the ability to access a private email server that is monitored but allows for communication with family and friends. No state funds are to be diverted to the initiative as it is all part of a contractual agreement between DOC and JPay. There is no monetary burden on the inmates unless they choose to buy additional features on the tablet. These features may include pre-approved books or other items.
JPay will make money if the inmates do decide to purchase additions for or on the tablet. DOC Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci called the tablet plan “groundbreaking.” Other officials claimed the program will help incarcerated individuals to prepare for life after prison by keeping on top of technology and maintaining contact with family and friends. The benefits seem to far outweigh the negatives. For the 52 000 inmates in the New York state system, it must be a huge positive.
The contractual agreement with JPay also involves the use of a payment system called Trust Account Services. This new system allows for family members to more easily transfer money into the accounts of inmates so they are able to purchase things inside the prison. The tablet deal is part of this larger deal, and requires JPay to take the responsibility of providing these tablets at no cost to the imprisoned individual or the taxpayer. By all accounts this seems like a win-win situation.
It is important to consider how difficult it may be to rejoin society after serving a prison sentence. Apart from having that on your conscience and social record, the experience of being in prison can lead one to forget previously learned skills. In addition, spending lots of time in prison as the world outside continues to change can leave one well behind in terms of technology and cultural advances. It is almost as prison has its own time frame. This initiative, then, is important for helping inmates to become productive and contributing members of society upon their release from prison.