March 27, 2017 Last Updated 9:21 am

Indiana Dept of Correction proposes inmate tablet program

While the state prison system looks for vendors to fund the program, the odds are stacked against the publis going along, and other issues such as cost and quality could derail effort

The idea certainly has merit – why not give every inmate a tablet in order to access classwork and self-help material – but in deep red Indiana there is surely going to be objections. Nonetheless, the Indiana Department of Correction is seeking bids for the project, and hoping that whoever wants the business may actually pay for the first tablets so the Indiana taxpayers do not have to (with the vendor recouping their investment when inmates pay for entertainment).

Photo: Prison by Tiago Pinheiro used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The reaction on the Indianapolis Star story from last week was predictable, few see the merits in the program. But William Wilson, an IDOC executive director, thinks that a little positive reinforcement is a good thing.

“Historically, corrections has always been based on consequences,” Wilson told the Star, “but what we’ve learned is that sometimes through positive reinforcement you gain better performance, better behavior.”

It would be nice if the state could give this one a try, but I am skeptical it will get approved.

Two problems with mass tablet programs have been cost and quality. In Los Angeles, the LA Unified School District had planned to buy some 700,000 iPads for its students and teachers before the plan was cancelled as too costly. The price tag for equipment, software and Wi-Fi upgrades to schools grew to $1.3 billion, transforming a progressive proposal into an outright scandal.

Other attempts to get tablets into the hands of users on a mass scale have failed because the tablets themselves were of such a low quality that no one wanted them. Back in 2013 TNM wrote about the Chicago Tribune’s tablet program which offered readers an Android Tablet DQV model V703 with WiFi through its relationship with P.C. Richard & Son.

The tablets were already by that time outdated, running a three year old version of Android. Few likely signed up for the deal and its soon was ended.

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