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Email, music, e-books and games: NHDOC offers prisoners digital services for a price

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 19. 2018 2:19PM
State prisoners will soon have access to tablets to connect with loved ones and access entertainment and educational materials. (GTL)

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  • Should NH raise revenue by charging prisoners for access to online services such as email, music downloads and games?
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CONCORD — Streaming music. Downloadable books. Video games. Video visits from family and friends.

The world of digital communication is piercing prison walls, after the state Department of Corrections announced a five-year contract that will give inmates access to shared tablets at no cost. Inmates with money will even be able to purchase their own tablets and audio players.

The catch: even if an inmate uses a shared tablet, he or his loved ones will have to pay: 40 cents for an email; $2 for a digital music track; $6 for a video chat. Of course, the state will get its cut from those charges: 19 cents for a song, 5 cents for an email message.

Global Tel Link (GTL) Corporation of Reston, Va., is providing the tablets at no cost to the state, according to a statement issued by the Department of Corrections.

Inmates will be able to operate the tablets in a secured wireless environment that allows access only to specific services, the release said. Inmates will not have access to the Internet.

A corrections department spokesman said the new service reflects a change in philosophy. The timing is related to the expiration of the department’s current telephone contract.

“We felt it was time to explore ways to use technology to provide more rehabilitation opportunities for those in our custody,” said spokesman Jeffrey Lyons. He noted that prison and jails across the country, including the jail in Strafford County, use the service.

“Through kiosks and tablets, residents will have the ability to communicate with friends and family, submit requests to staff, and order canteen products,” the statements reads. “They will also be able to access education/life skills training, law library services, basic games, and view policies and documents.”

Kiosks will be placed in each housing unit, and tablets will be shared by four inmates each.

Inmates can receive messages from friends and family, but whoever sends a message will have to pay for the service.

Prisoners who want individual tablets will have to pay $149; an audio player will cost $74.99.

The contract with GTL allows the company to levy numerous charges:

• movie: $4.99.

• digital song: $2.

• book: $3.50 per book.

• e-mail message: 40 cents.

• e-card: $2.

• 20-minute video visit: $6.

• debit transactions such as deposit to an inmate account or payment of a fine: $3 to $10.

• educational and vocational programs, commissary requests, inmate grievance form and games: free.

The Corrections Department plans to pilot video visitations shortly. The Corrections Department stressed that in-person visits will continue.

Corrections Commissioner Helen Hanks said: “This technology provides a wide array of services to the men and women that will help enhance communication and increase access to digital resources while creating efficiency for our staff through automation and a decrease in the amount of paper that is exchanged.”

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