The jail in San Francisco County is the first in the nation to provide its detainees with tablets and free access to content, such as legal resources, e-books and music. The county Sheriff’s Office (SFSO) announced on May 25, 2023, that it successfully launched its tablet program, expanding a pilot program begun nine years ago to enhance educational opportunities for those in custody.
Mayor London Breed (D) noted the significance of this initiative, emphasizing it is part of continuing reform aimed at reducing the high costs associated with incarceration. “People in our jail system should have access to technology resources that afford them the opportunity to develop new skills and stay connected while they serve their time,” Breed said.
The need for tablets in jails became even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person visitation and programming were restricted. Sheriff Paul Miyamoto said the program was developed in collaboration with the San Francisco Public Library and with the help of partners in the City of San Francisco, which shares the county’s jail system. That has resulted in a wide range of free media previously unavailable to those incarcerated in any jail.
Sheriff Miyamoto stressed that the move would alleviate the financial burden on families of those behind bars. While other jails around the country offer tablet services, they come at a cost to incarcerated individuals and their families, disproportionately affecting people of color or those with low incomes.
City Librarian Michael Lambert acknowledged the role of information and library services in improving low literacy, which helps feed people into the prison pipeline.
David Thornton, a detainee at County Jail #3 who studied law and coding using the tablets, attested to the program’s value, saying it goes beyond mere entertainment to provide resources to break the cycle of incarceration and support mental health.
In addition to vital legal and reentry resources, the tablets let detainees submit commissary orders, medical requests and even grievances. Ultimately, the program aims to reduce recidivism and enhance crime prevention, equipping detainees with tools to prepare for life beyond jail.
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login