Inmates at many prisons across the country are receiving free Android tablets. This has been going on for several years but the topic is still controversial.

The tablets are fairly basic Android models. However, there are some differences. These tablets are clear to prevent inmates from hiding anything inside.

The tablets don’t connect to the Internet in the way conventional tablets so. They can only connect to wireless hotspots in the prison provided by the company that makes the tablets. Those hotspots only connect to the company’s servers. Inmates can’t access standard apps like Facebook or email services like Gmail.

Emails and Videograms

However, they can still do a lot, including:

  • Phone calls
  • Emails, eCards and videoGrams
  • Online courses, podcasts, and eBooks
  • The ability to purchase music, play games, rent movies
  • Read news

The tablets are provided to inmates to allow them to stay in contact with their families. They also help keep inmates busy. Tablet providers claim that access to music, games, and other media, “Resulted in notable decreases in suicide attempts and ideations, successful suicides, inmate on staff assaults, and inmate-on-inmate assaults.”

Not Exactly Free

Prisoners must pay for each email and video call. They must also pay for music, games, eBooks, and movies.

In most cases, the prisoners’ families put money for the services on their account. Critics say the company bills inmates and their families way more for these services than the rest of us pay.

For example, it cost .35 to send an email. If you want to add a photo or video, it’s cost more. Music albums can cost up to 4 times what the general public pays.

It probably doesn’t surprise you find out that prisoners have managed to hack the tablets and give themselves credits towards emails and digital media. Though, so far, there are no reports of prisoners figuring out how to connect to the web outside of the secure servers provided by the company.