by Ed Lyon
Texas state prisoners have begun receiving free tablet computers from Securus Technologies. By February 18, 2022, the state’s privately contracted provider had distributed 3,500 “e-tablets” to prisoners in seven of its 61 state prisons—Diboll, Bell, Henley, Kegans, Kyle, Stevenson and Halbert units—according to a tweet from the state Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), which also said distribution at the Roach and Murray units would begin the following week.
For TDCJ, the deal means not only more control over prisoners but also more cash: Securus will kick back a portion of the fees that prisoners or their loved ones pay for content delivered on the tablets. The firm and its parent, Aventiv Technologies, clearly expect profits from those sales, as well, even after factoring in the cost of the 4-by-7-inch tablet, a protective cover and charger, plus a pair of earbuds with a microphone built into the cord so that the e-tablet doubles as a phone. But what about prisoners?
Their tablets “will be preloaded with education materials, some e-books, some religious materials,” according to TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier. “They have radio. They can also have music on it. It’ll come pre-loaded with some music. They will have an opportunity to buy some additional things to add to it.”
The free content Securus has promised includes 350 podcasts, 30 games, unlimited FM radio, a dictionary, a thesaurus, an encyclopedia and AP news updates. The entire Guttenberg library of 60,000 books is also available, though with copyrights lasting up to 95 years, few recent titles are included. TDCJ, in its quest to become a paperless system, said it also plans to use the e-tablets to notify prisoners of administrative and medical appointments, accept grievances and take commissary orders. Everything else delivered over the tablets comes with a fee attached.
But don’t worry!
Securus also offers subscription plans with a “simple fixed-price monthly payment,” though you won’t see prices until you sign up for an account. Also unclear is how much of the fee-based content might have been freely available at the prison library. What is clear, given the poverty most prisoners and their families face, is just how “free” the e-tablets are not. [See: PLN, March 2020, p.44.]
Source: The Echo, WFAA
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