Albany, NY – Prison inmates in the state of New York will soon be provided with free tablet computers to better enable them to file grievances with the prison, message friends and family, and access educational and musical content, prison officials announced on Wednesday.
New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci called the plan “groundbreaking,” and was one of many prison officials who believe that the computers will better prepare inmates for re-entry into the community, WPIX reported.
The JP5 tablets – which will be handed out to each and every inmate in the state – will be provided free of charge by correctional services company JPay, WKBW reported.
As a perk for JPay’s donation, the company will receive money from transactions the inmates make on the tablets, to include buying e-books, music, and videos. JPay also coordinates the prisons’ commissary and family care package services.
"Similar to purchasing a song on iTunes or an online game, incarcerated individuals will have the same opportunity to purchase entertainment and media products and download them onto the JP5 device," JPay said in a statement, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.
“The contract includes the company providing each inmate a tablet free of charge,” the DOCCS said in a statement. “The tablet initiative is not dependent on the budget as there are no state funds being used, nor is the Department taking commissions.”
DOCCS said that the computers will have preloaded educational content, and that plans to implement methods for inmates to file grievances, report violations of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and to place commissary requests were in the works.
Inmates will not be able to access the Internet through the devices, but will be allowed to plug their tablets into kiosks at scheduled times in order to send emails to approved recipients, WKBW reported.
"Research shows that frequent communication with friends and family is proven to lower the rate of recidivism," JPay wrote in its statement, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. "The JP5 tablets help to increase the amount of correspondence."
Upon hearing about the new program, New York State Assemblyman Steve Hawley asked why a “luxury” such as a computer tablet would be “handed out like candy” to convicts.
“If it’s this easy to encourage vendors to provide free tablets to inmates, why aren’t they being provided to our students in disadvantaged school districts or to libraries across the state as a community resource?" Hawley said in a statement, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.
The tablets were supposed to be available to prisoners beginning in the summer of 2018.