Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

New Jersey Takes Computers

Since about 1985 the New Jersey DOC has allowed prisoners to possess personally owned computers in their cells and for approved prisoner groups to have computers in their offices. On September 12, 1995, the NJ DOC announced that effective September 18, 1995, it plans to begin phasing out prisoner owned personal computers so that by October 1, 1996, none would remain in the DOC. This would also affect "programmable word processors," i.e. memory typewriters.

Prisoner owned personal computers has long been a topic of concern for PLN . Unlike "perks" like TVs, radios, etc., computers represent an opportunity for prisoners to gain vital job skills that can be used upon release and while in prison can be used as part of the overall struggle for prisoner rights, i.e. litigation and propaganda, among others. [See: PLN , June, 1993, Computers and Rehabilitation: Taking Responsibility for the Future, by Ed Mead.]

One New Jersey prisoner contacted PLN about any possible litigation strategy to forestall the loss of computers. The Alaska supreme court is currently considering just such a case, which was dismissed at the trial level. We will report the result when it is published. So far all litigation on this issue, and typewriters as well, have been failures in federal court. We aren't aware of any state court rulings on this issue. This is an issue that needs to be fought on a political level. When prisoners at WSR had their computers taken in 1989 Ed filed, and lost, litigation on it. However, prisoners were successful in regaining a scaled down computer program, only at the Washington State Reformatory and only as a "pilot project" that can be ended at their captors whim for no reason, through political lobbying. It is a symptom of the weakness of the prisoner movement as a whole that it has had to rely on litigation as a primary strategy for so many years. But, that is the topic of another article. Prisoners in Wyoming and West Virginia are still permitted to own computers. Wyoming has "grandfathered" computers already in prisoners possession, new arrivals cannot get them.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login