GREAT FALLS — The Cascade County Sheriff's Office is joining with other facilities across the state in providing tablets for inmates, with the launch of its "Inmate Tablet Educational Program."
Undersheriff Cory Reeves said in a news release that the tablets will be distributed to every inmate in the jail. Reeves says that the tablets are loaded with communication, education, and employment resources because the goal is to reduce recidivism and help people move forward with their lives once they leave the jail.
While some may see this as an unnecessary luxury for inmates, the emphasis of the program is on education and communication, and the Sheriff's Office believes this could have a big impact.
"We want the inmates to have access, sort of, to the outside world,” said Warden Joe Visser.
The 450 tablets are part of the contract the Sheriff's Office has with the company that operates the electronic kiosks in the detention center. The tablets were actually ordered about a year ago but because of supply shortages they had just come in.
"They can buy a subscription to the tablet. It's a one-time, $5 fee and that gets you 30 days and this is your device. Or, you can do a communal. What the communal (is for) is if you want to do library books, if you want to get on their and do some of the educational stuff,” Visser said.
Inmates can also use the tablets to make phone calls, watch movies, or listen to music, but will not have access to social media.
"Phone calls are important. A lot of the mental health issues are being away from family, friends things like that. Educational stuff, they can get their GED, they can take classes. They can do classes as far as addiction, chemical dependency, alcohol dependency things like that,” Visser explained. "So it gives them an opportunity while they're in here to find resources so when they get out it's an easier transition back into the community."
Sheriff's Office personnel have visited other facilities using the tablets and found the tablets are beneficial, especially for education.
Detention Officers have “officer tablets” and can monitor every inmate's tablet, approve an e-message before it’s forwarded to the recipient, and will continue to monitor all phone calls made from the tablets, just as they monitor regular phone calls now for the safety and security of the staff and inmates.
Because the tablets are part of a contract, they didn’t cost the Sheriff’s Office any extra money. Replacement tablets, however, will cost $200.
According to the news release:
Our Tablets will allow inmates to access critical content that enriches their lives and helps prepare them for successful reentry. Inmates are provided with educational and self-help opportunities via the Tablets, which allows them to prepare for success in the future.
We believe education, vocational or otherwise, is key to reducing recidivism; therefore, a complete educational catalog is free to use on the Tablets. There are instructional documents and videos, along with exercises and tests, that allow for an inmate to complete coursework at their own pace.
Other Tablet content examples are Adult Basic Education, GED Prep, College Credit, Vocational Training, Life Skills, Job Search and Preparation, Mental Health, Addiction Recovery, Religious Resources, and Parenting and Family. Our Tablet program also gives our inmates the option to pay to watch movies, listen to music, read e-books, play games, and access to Newsstand.
Inmates can speak to family and friends via the Tablets, as they communicate like a telephone, and they can receive eMessaging.
Reeves says that this has been a year-long project with Securus that has finally come to fruition, and they are "excited to roll these powerful tablets out in our jail which comes with a zero cost to our taxpayers."
We will update you if we get more information.