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Crawford County, Pa., Considers Renting Computer Tablets to Jail Inmates

Though the tablet won't allow access to the Internet, inmates would get use of an electronic tablet that connects to a secure closed, or intranet, system that only connects within the jail.

by Keith Gushard, The Meadville Tribune, Pa. / September 26, 2016
A recent study lists the need for improved Internet infrastructure and video conferencing capabilities within the corrections system. Flickr/Thomas Hawk

(TNS) — SAEGERTOWN, Pa. — The Texas firm that offers inmate phone services at the Crawford County Correctional Facility now wants to offer computer tablets to inmates to rent if the inmate's family or friend is willing to pay a monthly fee.

Though the tablet won't allow access to the internet, inmates would get use of an electronic tablet that connects to a secure closed, or intranet, system that only connects within the jail, Luke Keiser of Securus Technologies of Dallas told the Crawford County Prison Board at its meeting Thursday at the jail in Saegertown.

Use of an intranet system for the tablets ensures the inmates will not be able to access items that are not approved by jail administration, he said.

"Our tablets will only work with our network," Keiser said.

Securus has been the jail’s contracted telephone system provider for inmates since 2011. Securus' telephone system Securus allows inmates to make outgoing telephone calls but charges on a per-minute basis with the county receiving 70 percent of the revenue and Securus 30 percent. Those outgoing phone calls are monitored by the jail and a notification is issued on the phone when an inmate makes an outgoing call.

With the tablets, inmates could access law library resources, general education diploma or GED courses, about 10,000 electronic books, podcasts, approved music stations, job search software and some individual games like solitaire, Keiser said. The tablet also can be used as a phone, but the phone calls on the tablet are recorded and monitored just like the traditional outgoing phone calls inmates make, he said.

Jail staff would have master tablets that can locate each of the inmate tablets, monitor activities on the equipment and shut individual tablets or all of them if necessary.

The estimated rental cost of the tablet would be between about $15 to $30 per month — depending on whether the jail chooses to add the GED course software, Keiser said. Renting a tablet is completely voluntary, he said.

The jail would remain in complete control of the system at all times because of the master tablets jail staff would control, Keiser said.

The inmate tablets would be returned to jail staff at the end of each day to be charged, Keiser said.

While there is no liability to the inmate or jail if a tablet issued to an inmate is damaged or broken, $160 would have to be paid on behalf of the inmate before another tablet would be issued to the inmate, Keiser said.

Both Warden Kenneth Saulsbery and Deputy Warden Jack Greenfield of the county jail told the Prison Board they were in favor of the system as a way to keep inmates occupied, help them prepare to reenter society and encourage good behavior. Greenfield, who came to the Crawford County jail after working in the state Department of Corrections, told the board that Pennsylvania has a similar tablet program available for inmates in state facilities.

The Prison Board took no action on the proposal at its meeting Thursday. Nick Hoke, vice chairman of the Prison Board and county sheriff, said the earliest the board could possibly act on approval would be at its Oct. 27 meeting. Francis Schultz, chairman of the Prison Board, was absent from Thursday's meeting.

©2016 The Meadville Tribune (Meadville, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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