You've Got Jail: Is It Time to Bring America's Prisoners Online?

By Beato, Greg | Reason, July 2011 | Go to article overview

You've Got Jail: Is It Time to Bring America's Prisoners Online?


Beato, Greg, Reason


IN DECEMBER 2010, a local Fox News affiliate broke the news that a heavily tattooed Oklahoma man had been posting candid photos of himself on Facebook. In one, he was dreamily licking an extremely lethal-looking knife. In another, he was showing off a bong made out of toilet paper rolls. In other words, pretty standard Facebook imagery, except that the man was a convicted murderer serving time in Oklahoma's Granite Reformatory, posting the photos from his jail cell using a contraband smartphone.

In January 2011, The New York Times wrote about an incarcerated counterfeiter in Florida who was paying his debt to society by playing Farmville and Street Wars. A few months later, the Los Angeles Times reported that in California, a one-day test of a proposed system that can ferret out contraband phones intercepted more than 4,000 attempted calls, text messages, and efforts to access the Internet--all from a single prison. According to a press release issued by the bipartisan National Governors Association, prison inmates use cell phones to "engineer escapes, organize gang activity, threaten and kill witnesses, extort money and commit fraud, organize drug deals and riots, track the location of prison guards, and facilitate the trafficking of other contraband."

Like everyone else these days, prisoners are hungry for social connectivity, information, and a chance to prove their prowess at raising imaginary tomatoes. Contraband cellphones--often smuggled in by prison employees--reportedly go for as much as $1,000 apiece precisely because correctional facilities are such information-poor environments. Maybe we should be offering easier, legal ways for inmates to obtain information and communicate with the outside world. That would contradict the traditional isolationist approach to incarceration. But how well is the traditional approach working?

"The prison population is growing 13 times faster than the general population," Newt Gingrich pointed out in a recent Washington Post op-ed. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 50 percent of the inmates who are released this year will be back inside prison walls within three years. What if, instead of exiling inmates from the outside world, from new technologies and information, the correctional system made a greater effort to offer monitored, secure, but more expansive access to new technologies, a legitimate alternative to contraband smartphones?

To an extent, the correctional system is already doing this. In February, for example, most federal prisons introduced TRULINCS, a closed email system that allows inmates to correspond with a limited number of pre-approved contacts. At five cents per minute, TRULINCS Costs more than anyone has paid for online access since AOL charged by the hour. But if it's 1995 in America's prisons, that's still better than the Dark Ages.

"Access to information gives inmates the opportunity to make informed decisions about their futures. It allows them to reconsider past ideas and decisions," says Melissa Gilbert, branch librarian at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Washington state. "It's irresponsible and unrealistic to expect positive change, or to hold inmates accountable for their decisions and actions, if they aren't given adequate access to accurate and relevant information to support the behavioral changes our society is asking them to make."

According to Vibeke Lehmann, who served for 25 years as the coordinator of library services and education technology for Wisconsin's Department of Corrections before retiring in 2008, between 50 and 60 percent of prison inmates haven't graduated from high school. Both a 1991 study by New York's Department of Correctional Services and a broader 2001 study by the Correction Education Association suggest that inmates who earn GEDs or college degrees while incarcerated have lower recidivism rates than other prisoners. While the impact of prison library patronage on recidivism rates is less clear--"It's difficult to find proof, i. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

You've Got Jail: Is It Time to Bring America's Prisoners Online?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.