The Dane County Jail will soon provide tablet computers for inmates.
In a partnership with Telmate, an inmate communication company, The Dane County Sheriff’s Office will offer inmates tablets that are loaded with productive activities approved by the jail.
Elise Schaffer, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office, says some of those activities will include making phone calls and text messages. The tablets will also serve as an avenue for inmates to submit medical requests and grievances.
In addition to being used to communicate with friends and family, Schaffer says the tablets will also have a more educational purpose. Some other uses of the tablets will be for reading books and streaming music, as well as watching movies and TV.
The sheriff’s office plans to offer two tablets for each eight-person cell block and one tablet for each four-person cell block. In the large group pods, the jail hopes to have about one tablet per eight inmates.
Some programs on the devices will be free and others, such as those used for sending emails and streaming music, will come at a cost to inmates. The tablets will be funded through a contract with Telmate and revenue generated from the inmates’ use of the tablets will be returned to the general fund.
According to Schaffer, offering tablets will serve as an incentive for positive behavior and will be useful in monitoring inmates’ activity in the jail.
“It’s a privilege that we’re able to give them for positive behavior,” Schaffer says. “We’ll be able to track everything better because everything they do on the iPads will be tracked — their phone calls and text messages will be recorded as well.”
Schaffer says tablets are already used in many jails across the nation, including in the Rock County jail. The Rock County Sheriff’s Office has been using tablets since 2016.
These have been widely popular among the jail’s inmates, according to Rock County Sergeant Andrew Reed. He says they are mostly used for communication with others outside of the jail.
“It’s definitely beneficial,” Reed says. “They’re very respectful to the tablets, rarely do we have one that gets destroyed or ruined. They just share — we don’t really have an issue with them not sharing. At first I was a little hesitant, but they’re great. I don’t think we have had an issue with it at all.”
Reed says he thinks it’s a good idea that Dane County is implementing a similar program and he recommends others to follow the trend, too
The Dane County sheriff’s office has plans to meet with a program manager to determine the types of programs available on tablets before offering them in the jail. The office has yet to determine when they will start providing the tablets.
Kayla Huynh reported this story.