Tablets available to inmates at county jail

November 24, 2018

Somerset County Jail inmates will soon have more access to high-tech devices.

Inmates will be able to slide on headphones available in their cells and send emails, video chat, receive money transfers and download select movies, TV shows and music using Global Tel-Link tablets, for set fees.

The program is scheduled to start Monday. The tablets are part of a service used in state prisons.

Similar to other handheld devices such as iPads, the jail’s 17 tablets will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. in specific units, such as the female unit, cell blocks, work release and general population, according to a new jail policy.

“I know all the inmates are looking forward to getting those tablets. It is on all of their request slips,” Deputy Warden John Caron said.

Each inmate will be issued headphones if they are on a unit that has the tablets. The headphones must be used when making phone calls, playing games or listening to music. Sharing headphones will result in the loss of tablet privilege, according to the jail’s policy.

The tablets are programmed to only work on the unit they are assigned. An inmate on one of those units must go to the charging station and sign the tablet out, and when finished they will have to sign out, or the charges for the device will continue, according to the policy. An inmate can use the tablet in a cell or in the day room.

The tablets will let inmates educate themselves, prepare to re-enter the work force, send and receive emails, download selected movies and music, and video chat with their friends and loved ones, according to Caron.

IGL requires service fees, such as for messaging from friends and family and video visitation, paid by friends and family. The cost is 25 cents per message or photo. Standard profile usage, including religious content, games, streaming music, news, movies and eBooks costs 5 cents per minute of usage.

Inmates will be able to purchase tablet time from the commissary. Friends and family can deposit funds to the inmate’s tablet account.

“The tablets are going to give them more phone opportunities,” Caron said. The costs are the same as calling rates by phones on the wall and are subject to the same monitoring, recording and review.

Materials from the law library will be more readily available as one of the tablet profiles that will not come at a cost to inmates. Others include inmate requests, commissary ordering and educational material.

“Requests will all be done electronically, thus, nothing will get lost in the shuffle,” he said. “Any type of grievances will be coming straight to me.”

At the last prison board meeting, the board members unanimously approved the tablet policy upon solicitor review and approval.

“My hope is that the tablets will increase inmate morale,” Caron said.

Jail officials had a warning.

If headphones are damaged, an inmate has to buy a new one at the commissary. If inmates breaks a tablet “due to irresponsible behavior” they will be charged a fee of $250 and will permanently lose tablet privilege. Inmates on disciplinary status or in a housing unit locked down for disciplinary reasons, will not be permitted to use them, according to the policy.

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