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State prisoners in Oklahoma have begun receiving special computer tablets to receive not only information that inmates need to have but also some other material for reading and entertainment. That is a good use of technology that was implemented at the Pinal County jail in Florence two years ago. Inmates are not allowed unrestricted access to the internet for obvious reasons, but the tablets are beneficial to them, not least because they can provide resources to help with rehabilitation.

When Pinal Sheriff Mark Lamb introduced the use of Securus Technologies tablets in 2019, he emphasized their value in communications for inmates with their families and the availability of educational and religious content that would tend to improve inmate behavior. Along with that is the ability to learn computer skills and use the tablet in searching for a job in preparation for the inmate’s release. The tablets also are a link to mental health services and the law library. Pinal began using the tablets for the inmates to receive communications as a block to dangerous drugs that may be included with mailed letters.

Inmates always have had access to books and other materials, but tablets take the possibilities to a new level with more efficiency and immediacy. The inmates do not need to be escorted out to receive information or materials.

Meanwhile, advocates in Oklahoma point out some objections, mainly the cost involved. Inmates have to pay for access to various things. The provider company obviously has a profit motive, and the state receives a cut.

Use of this technology can be a great help to inmates and also the institutions that hold them. The costs involved should be monitored closely to ensure that the charges are fair and affordable. With that in mind, use of the technology can be beneficial to all parties, especially the inmates.

— Donovan Kramer Jr.

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