Explaining The Great Prison Tablet Scam

How For-Profit Industry is Destroying Prison Visitation

Photo by Daniel Cañibano on Unsplash

I read an article earlier today about the coincidence of how the Florida Department of Corrections opened a contract with a vendor for prisoner tablets (computers) and almost immediately canceled in person visits.

Of course the DOC claims that there was no connection between the two.

But that is probably total B.S., let me explain how the scam has worked in other jurisdictions:

  1. Communications Company brings tablet technology to DOC and cuts DOC in on profits. When tablets make money…prisons make money
  2. Tablets include video visitation software
  3. Visitation COSTS prisons $$$’s — Video Visitation MAKES prisons $$$’s

Next thing you know, visitations disappear. The DOC will say either a) it is to stop contraband b) it is for safety reasons or both.

This dance is being repeated all over the country. This is not just about Florida.

This dance was NOT a coincidence it was by design.

And just to clarify, the major vector for smuggling is NOT in-person visits. It is true that SOME contraband comes in through visits but remember, people have to have contact and swallow the contraband without getting caught.

I don’t know if this is universal, but everywhere I was incarcerated you had to fully strip search before and after every visit and the visitors were searched as well. It is substantially complicated for inmates and their loved ones to smuggle contraband into prisons (much harder than it is for Correctional Officers).

In-person visitation has been shown by multiple studies to have a positive effect in reducing recidivism and increasing societal safety. Oddly enough, in-person connection between human beings helps strengthen empathy and reduce anger and frustration.

Finally, tablets by themselves could be very helpful but sometimes these companies use that as a trick to get us to buy-in for the free tablets without considering the consequences.

In a world where the tablets and programming was free or mostly free and the DOC was not cut in on the profits, I would be pro-tablets in prisons but that is not the world we live in (sadly).

Look, I get it, maybe you don’t care at all about this issue, but you should care about how people return (because well over 90% of all prisoners will return to their communities), so stand up with us and tell Departments of Communications they cannot stop in-person visitation.

Josh is the co-host of the Decarceration Nation podcast and is a blogger and freelance writer who writes about criminal justice reform, television, movies, music, politics, race, ethics, and more.