Allen County jail inmates have been using secure computer tablets for communication and other activities, the sheriff's department announced Friday.
The jail currently has more than 700 inmates with tablets assigned to them. Inmates receive a tablet upon intake to the jail, with some exceptions. “All of this is at no cost to taxpayers,” a statement from the sheriff's department said.
Inmates are required to pay a fee for some services that could be a potential source of revenue for the jail, said Steve Stone, sheriff's department spokesman.
Messages must be initiated from someone outside the jail and they must add inmates as contacts in order for the inmate to message back. Each message costs 25 cents and allows up to 2,000 characters, according to the sheriff's department.
One woman said she sent messages to an inmate in July.
“Every time I would send him one back,” the woman said. She asked not to be identified for legal reasons. She was able to access the tablet through an app called ConnectNetwork and the service cost a few dollars, paid through her bank card.
The Inspire devices are supplied through Global Tel Link, a provider in Reston, Virginia, that has worked with other jails, Stone said. In at least one of those partnerships, revenues were split 50-50 with GTL, Stone said.
The tablets are equipped with secure features and allow inmates to work on personal rehabilitation while serving their sentences, the sheriff's department said. Inmates have to cooperate in order to qualify for the Inspire Inmate Communication Device.
“This decision was not taken lightly, as the sheriff's intention is not to pamper inmates or make their stay more enjoyable,” a statement from the sheriff's department said.
Use of the tablets will lighten the workload for jail employees who are often asked and required to provide inmates with legal documents, Stone said. Some of those requested documents can be hundreds of pages and still must legally be provided. The tablets also allow access to the Bible and the Quran.
While inmates have no access to the internet, social media or YouTube, there are applications that will include movie streaming, inmate request forms, commissary ordering, news feeds and, in the future, a video visitation system, the department said.
Inmates can also pay subscriptions for music, games and e-books with seven-day subscriptions costing $7.99 for music, $2.49 for games and $1.49 for e-books.
“Other correctional facilities that have had inmate tablet programs implemented have reported significant decreases in inmate-to-officer assaults, inmate-to-inmate assaults and inmate suicide attempts,” the sheriff's department statement said.
Inmates with a history of destroying a tablet or other jail property or are deemed too mentally ill to be responsible for a tablet will not be given one.