All inmates in NYS prisons to get free tablets

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - Under a new state contract, all inmates in New York State prisons will receive free tablets.

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) is partnering with JPay, a company that specializes in inmate and corrections-related services. JPay is providing the tablets at no cost to the state or inmates, and DOCCS is not taking commissions for the tablets.

The tablets will be preloaded with educational content and DOCCS plans to make additional services available through the tablets, such as Prison Rape Elimination Act reporting, Grievance filing, and the potential for placing commissary orders.

According to DOCCS, JPay will get money from transactions that happen via the tablets (ebooks, music, videos). The tablets are only part of a larger contract with JPay who are also handling commissary and care packages sent from families to inmates.

The tablets will not be able to connect to the internet, but inmates will be able to use the tablets to purchase music, e-books, videos, and other entertainment. There will also be controlled kiosks where inmates can plug their tablet in to send emails to an approved list of recipients. Inmates will only have supervised access to the kiosks at scheduled times.

State corrections officials say they believe using the tablets will help inmates stay in touch with their families and be better prepared to reenter into the community.

The tablets have sparked debate since the program was announced. Many are critical of the program, but some say it can give inmates an opportunity to better adapt when they get out of prison.

Pastor James Giles is on the latter side. He has ministered in a re-entry program for newly-released prisoners for 23 years. He also served time behind bars for six years. He says the tablets will prepare inmates for life after their sentence.

"It's going to open up a huge, vast array of opportunities for inmates that they didn't have before," Giles said.

Republican State Assemblyman from Batavia Steve Hawley is adamantly against the program. So much so that he is contacting Governor Cuomo and DOCCS demanding an end to the program. 7 Eyewitness News will continue to provide updates online and on the WKBW app as more information comes in.

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