While some may argue that access to computer tablets at the Franklin County Regional Jail is a privilege inmates shouldn’t be granted, we believe the benefits of the program, which launched in early May, outweigh the cons.
The GTL Inspire tablets, which were provided by the company at no cost to the jail, provide some free services, including access to the law library, news items and information inquiries. However, to obtain books, music and movies on the devices, inmates are charged 2 cents to 5 cents per minute depending on the content.
The jail also generates revenue from the program. GTL reimburses the commissary fund for allowing the usage of the tablets.
FCRJ limits detainees’ tablet time to 30 minutes each week and plugs the precautionary security measures provided by the video visitation function on the devices.
This feature, for which GTL charges 21 cents per minute, makes for safer face-to-face conversations between the inmate and loved ones versus traditional physical visits and virtually eliminates the chance of contraband entering the jail.
The devices provide an additional incentive for those who wish to pursue General Educational Development (GED) diplomas while incarcerated. Thorn Hill Learning Center, which is already tops in the state for inmate GEDs (35) this year, will administer online GED prep classes and educational courses through the computer tablets.
For jail staff, who have the option to monitor inmate content on the devices, they make for a great behavioral modification tool and, according to jail official, help alleviate inmate stress.
However, the addition of the tablets — what some may even term “entertainment” — raises an interesting philosophical question regarding the purpose of incarceration. Some view it as punishment for lawbreakers. Others may say prison protects society from offenders. A third group can argue that jail is place for rehabilitation.
We believe it’s a conglomeration of all three. The inmates are serving their time for their crimes and the tablets seem to pose no threat to public safety. Yet, rehabilitation also has to be a part of the equation. If we want these folks to come out of jail better than when they went in, they need to be given tools to succeed on the outside.