Inmates Need Internet to Prepare for Life After Prison

Source: 6/30/23

I’ve been in federal prison for 17 years. During that time, I have watched flip phones become iPhones, EVs become ubiquitous, and AI start to take over the world—albeit not quite the way Terminator envisioned it (yet). Still, I have been largely unable to use that technology myself. I could only read about it in magazines and newspapers, watching the 21st century unfold using 17th-century methods. I didn’t physically hold a smart device until the US Federal Bureau of Prisons started selling tablets—last year.

This isn’t all that surprising. The Bureau of Prisons is resistant to change and sensitive to criticism. In 2008 it finally replaced antiquated monitors in supermax prisons with new TVs, but officials limited those to black-and-white picture mode so they could tell the public that they hadn’t provided the luxury of color to prisoners. A combination of the BOP’s hypersensitivity to public perception and congressional pressure to keep inmates in a no-frills environment has resulted in prisoners being years, if not decades, behind the rest of society.

To function in a world littered with fake news, political propaganda, and emotion disguised as fact, you need to be able to do research and challenge the noise. In here, that option isn’t readily available. For the most part, all of our information comes from broadcast news. Exposure to partisan news sources without the ability to fact-check is a recipe for disaster. While we do have access to magazines and newspapers, they cost money, so most prisoners just opt to watch cable TV. Any group of people exposed to a single news source for years without any other input is at risk of radicalization.

What’s more, limited access to technology hinders incarcerated people from setting themselves up for success when they reenter society. Education is the most effective means of reducing recidivism. Simply finishing a GED reduces a prisoner’s chances of coming back to prison dramatically. If they finish a four-year degree, their chances of returning drop below 8 percent. On the off chance that they earn a graduate degree, the odds are effectively zero. And yet, a college education is becoming increasingly out of reach; most schools that offer distance learning have transitioned to online-only formats, which are generally inaccessible to prisoners.

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Unless things have changed drastically since 2018, I still wouldn’t have access to the limited tech that the author indicates that the feds are finally allowing. As a… [person convicted of a sex offense], & more importantly one that had CP on a computer I was forbidden from even having email access while at Lompoc so I am pretty sure that they would have never let touched a tablet.