Oklahoma prison inmates to begin receiving computer tablets – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Inmates at an Oklahoma prison were given specialty computer tablets this week as part of a law enforcement agency plan to make safe tablets available to all inmates in state prisons.

Specially developed by prison communications company Securus Technologies, the devices will include free content such as prison guidelines, access to a law library, some books, and teaching and self-help materials. Inmates can also pay to receive music, movies, games, and television programming, and to send and receive messages, including video messages, to and from their families. The tablets do not have unrestricted access to the Internet.

Typically, detainees wishing to receive schooling or vocational training need to be escorted to a classroom or program location. But inmates can now get those services right on the tablet, said Mike Carpenter, director of technical services and operations at DOC.

“The training and programming is huge for us,” said Carpenter.

On Tuesday, North Fork Correctional Center inmate Byron Robinson, who has been incarcerated since 2005 – the same year that YouTube was founded – said the tablet was completely new to him.

“To date, I’ve never touched any of these things,” said Robinson. “It’s really amazing how much this thing can do.”

Similar programs that allow inmates to access secure tablets have been rolled out in other states, including Arizona, Connecticut, and Utah, but Oklahoma is one of the first in the country to combine the company’s latest tablet and operating system.

In Pinal County, Arizona, officials began distributing pills to inmates in the state’s third largest prison in 2019, said Matt Hedrick, deputy director of the detention center.

“It was phenomenal,” said Hedrick.

Hedrick said the prison not only helps calm inmates, it also scans incoming letters and photos onto an inmate’s tablet, reducing the chance of contraband getting into the facility and giving inmates access to more personal photos .

“There used to be rules about how many photos you could have in your cell, how many magazines,” he said. “That won’t happen now. You can have as many as you want. “

There are some drawbacks to providing tablets to inmates. According to a report by the Prison Policy Initiative from 2019, the “free” tablets often charge users for services that are above the market price. Oklahoma’s contract with the company provides a 25 cents fee for email and 75 cents for outbound video messages. Music can cost up to $ 1.99 per song or $ 14.99 per album, while the cost of a television episode can range from $ 1.70 to $ 2.28.

About 21,000 inmates are currently detained by the state, making the plan potentially very lucrative for Securus.

The Department of Corrections also benefits financially from the agreement, receiving $ 3.5 million annually from the communications company for the first five years of the contract and $ 3.75 million for the next five years.

“Our most recent analysis of these contracts suggests that they actually put the interests of the detainees last, prioritizing cost savings and the vendor’s bottom line,” the report said.

Sierra Kiplinger, who was released from prison in April, said that while inmates were excited about the new technology, they expressed concern about how much inmates would have to pay to use the services.

“The phone calls for Securus are ridiculously high, so I assume that these will be even higher when the calls are high,” she said.

State Representative Justin Humphrey, chairman of the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, said while he supports the program, he believes public perception could be an issue.

“I don’t think the public will like it when they see us giving pills to all of these inmates and they say, ‘My kid can’t get a tablet at school,’ said Humphrey.

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