WATCH | Prison walls may loom large for some inmates. But prisoners at the Albany County Correctional Facility in New York are breaking down barriers and reconnecting with their loved ones with a new mobile tablet prison program.
Sheriff Craig Apple, who implemented the program, says it has been working quite well. "When inmates are busy, you have a safer facility," he said. Apple says the program allows inmates to work toward a "social goal" of reconnecting to loved ones. It costs inmates five cents per minute to use a tablet. Prisoners or their family members can make down payments to fund use of the tablet.
The mobile tablet program is operated by a company called Telmate and not a single taxpayer dollar is used towards it.
For inmate Dennis Nopper, his three-months sentence for forgery has gone by quickly, thanks in part to the mobile tablet program. "You can text through Gmail and Yahoo to your loved ones and they can send pictures. They have games which makes the time go by faster," he said.
But those are basic functions of the tablet program. What Apple cites as most significant is the free access to the Law Library, an archive system inmates can use to research their cases and find information they can use to defend themselves in court.
After Telmate takes a cut from the money generated from the program, the county takes its portion. The latter amount is used for repairs at the jail.
Criticism of the program draws a sharp rebuttal from Apple. “I know some people are going to sit back, and go, 'Wow, you’re in jail, you should be paying the price' or whatever, but jail is supposed to correct the behavior. It’s not supposed to, you know, kill someone in there,” Apple said.
WRGB Albany contributed to this report.