INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana prison officials have proposed providing inmates with computer tablets to help them connect with family and further their educations.
The proposal includes creating a secure network and installing electronic kiosks across nearly two dozen Indiana Department of Correction facilities. Vendor applications are due by April 24. The department hopes to get the program going by the end of the year, agency executive director William Wilson told The Indianapolis Star.
Inmates could access classwork and self-help materials on the tablets. They also could order from the commissary or pay for entertainment. The money from entertainment would help pay for the program. The department hopes a vendor will pay the costs up front, then be reimbursed and earn a profit when inmates buy music and movies. Department officials also could reward good behavior by giving inmates access to entertainment on the tablets.
“Historically, corrections has always been based on consequences,” Wilson said, “but what we’ve learned is that sometimes through positive reinforcement you gain better performance, better behavior.”
The tablets likely wouldn’t be like the iPads or Kindles common at homes. Companies develop special tablets and software for use in prisons that are more secure and can be controlled by prison officials.
There are concerns, though. Indiana Public Defender Council spokeswoman Kristin Casper worries inmates might face added fees for tablets.
“There’s so much potential for this to be abused,” Casper said. “That’s our biggest issue with this.”
Wilson envisions the tablets making prison tasks easier, such as allowing inmates to contact their cases managers, which now is done with paper and pen. Substance abuse and anger management programming can be offered on the tablets, too.
“Our goal is to make sure that when these guys do go back to their communities, that they can be a contributing member,” Wilson said. “If we don’t allow offenders to have real-world access to education, to programming, to electronic devices — then we’ve become part of the problem.”