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By Eric Markowitz

At first glance, APDS looks like your typical tech startup: A bunch of young, bearded guys hanging out and working on MacBooks in a cavernous loft in Manhattan. There’s plush vintage furniture and chalkboard walls. There’s even an antique canoe dangling inexplicably from the ceiling.

But look a little closer, and you’ll see that APDS, which stands for American Prison Data Systems, is anything but your typical tech startup. Led by serial entrepreneur Chris Grewe, APDS is building tablets for prisoners. And business is good.   

Of all the new tech gadgets to (legally) enter into the prison system, from MP3 players to personal TVs, tablets are quickly becoming the most popular. Starting around the beginning of 2014, the three major for-profit prison technology firms–GTL, Securus, and Telmate–began offering inmates the option to purchase tablets loaded with music, movies, and games.

But Grewe and APDS is trying to do something different.

“They’re selling pacification,” Grewe said over lunch at his company’s office recently. “We’re selling education.”

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About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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