By Christopher Zoukis One of the biggest obstacles we face in prison education programs these days, is the outpacing of technology in terms of both course content and equipment. Technological development has occurred at breakneck speed in the last ten years, yet instruction in those areas is largely absent in the bulk of penal institutions.…

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By Chrstopher Zoukis News about the JPAY tablet seems to be making the rounds again, even hitting the BuzzFeed wire. The articles have been focused on the special tablets they’ve created to be used in the prison setting (see initial coverage here). We wrote about this important innovation in prison education some time ago, because…

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JPay has just released a new tablet, the JP5mini, an Android-based tablet that’s specifically designed to deal with some of the rigors of use in the prison setting. Its purchase cost to inmates is $69.99, and there are additional per-use fees with it. Its casing is more durable than the typical tablet’s,  its firmware is locked…

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By Joseph Erbentraut When San Francisco-based venture capitalists Chris Redlitz and Beverly Parenti walked into San Quentin State Prison in 2010 to speak with a group of inmates that a friend was mentoring, they didn’t know what exactly to expect. But the men behind bars, whom Redlitz described as “the most engaged audience I’ve ever…

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By Aimee Rawlins / 12newsnow.com  Image courtesy theimpactengine.com Tablets and text messages. To the general public, they might seem standard, but for a prison system, they could be revolutionary. At least that’s what Philadelphia hopes. The city recently signed contracts with two startups to help educate inmates while in prison and keep them connected once…

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By Christopher Zoukis

As I write this, I sit at a TRULINCS computer in a federal prison’s housing unit.  A set of in-ear JVC earbuds pump out Bush’s “Reasons” hit.  This is accomplished through the SanDisk MP3 player that the headphones are connected to.  This was not the case when I arrived in the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2008, and it has greatly improved my quality of life.

Over the past 6 years, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has made leaps and bounds in terms of the technology made available to the inmate population.  Back in 2006 — and in the early 1990s, for that matter — federal inmates were allowed to purchase Sony AM/FM Walkman radios.  These days this radio costs $39.95 from any federal prison’s commissary.  For as long as many prisoners can remember, these radios have been their primary contact with the outside world.  Today they are required to hear the televisions in inmate housing units, which have their speakers removed and are mounted high upon the walls in the housing units.

The technological revolution has also expanded to the Inmate Telephone System, where inmates can now place both collect and debit calls to their friends, family members, and others outside of prison.  Of course, most federal prison telephones now require the inmate to type in a nine-digit security code and state their name.  The name-recognition feature is to ensure that the prisoner attempting to call a particular authorized phone number is actually that prisoner.

While the Federal Bureau of Prisons has most certainly been analyzing these new technologies for quite some time, they have only recently become commonplace in federal prisons across the nation.  In 2012, FCI Petersburg — the medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia where I am incarcerated — installed Trust Fund Limited Inmate Communication Systems (TRULINCS) computers in every housing unit.  This coincided with the removal of all in-unit washers and dryers.  The trade was a good one.

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