' Solana Gillis | MTTLR

Tablets for All, Apps for . . . Some?

Companies like Securus (including their subsidiary JPay) and Global Tel Link (GTL) have long been front runners in providing banking and communication services to prisons. They got into the tablet space in the early 2010s, allowing people in prison to email loved ones, listen to music, play games, and access educational materials on personal devices, which provided greater flexibility and privacy. Despite some positive reactions to the presence of tablets in prisons, many also express concerns about private companies operating in a largely unregulated market, which has resulted in both harm and uncertainty for consumers. Many states have partnered with such companies to run pilot programs which provide prisoners with tablets for free (however, in some states, prisoners have been paying up to $147 for a tablet). Win-win-win, right? It is certainly a win for the companies. The tablets are about the only things that are free. These companies’ “generous” foot in the door tactics lead to enormous profits as a result of purchases made on the tablets. While many see the benefits of providing tablets in prisons, the race to enter the market combined with a lack of regulation is a recipe for harm to both prisoners and prison administration. Prisons see a lot of benefit to introducing tablets into their facilities, including less conflict among prisoners, as well as—sometimes—a cut of the profits from tablet-related sales. But some facilities have found themselves unprepared to handle the technology on such a large scale. This year, Idaho prison officials discovered that over 300 prisoners hacked JPay’s system and increased their account credits by nearly $225,000. Colorado recently went so...