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In an article put out by the Ellsworth American last week, Hancock County Jail Administrator, Timothy Richardson, said inmates at the jail will be getting tablets this Spring. Richardson said the goal was to give them another means of communication, to address issues of boredom and to cut down on paper waste.

Once this news hit, the comments started to come in.

Many folks did not have particularly positive reactions to this idea. On the newspaper's Facebook page, a good number of critics asked why prisoners were being rewarded in such a way. A few people pointed out that there are local police and fire departments, or even some schools, that could better benefit from any funds that might be spent on a program like this. Others voiced concerns over the risk of abuse posed by such a privilege, as a means of other illegal activity such as stalking or internet fraud, etc.

There were some people in favor of the move. They said it would help inmates keep up with the times and provide them with a better chance of recidivism, when they're ultimately released.

Richardson did respond to the nay-sayers on the Facebook thread saying "These tablets will not be able to connect to the ' World Wide Web/ Internet Service'. This will be a very secure service that will be installed specifically for this service. This system will only allow return email response. They can not generate an email. This is a very secure network. I must provide the means for the population to gain access to the news, legal services and contact with friends and family. I understand the concerns and I have researched this and feel this is very secure. If this becomes an issue the program will end immediately." He also added that no taxpayer money is going to the program.

Inmates in other Maine jails have already started to receive tablets, too. Richardson said in the article that he speculates that the rest of the jails in the state will soon be following suit.

I can understand the hesitation and head-scratching. As a mom, when I put my kids in time-out, I don't hand them any electronics while they're there. It's part of the consequence of their behavior.When there are books and other less convenient forms of information still available, handing inmates tablets doesn't make sense to me. Convenience is a privilege. Tablet-time is earned at my house. Why should it be any different in jail?

Also, have you ever been hit by a flying tablet? I have! (Toddler tantrums are the worst and anything that can be used as a projectile is fair game at our house.) When they've made contact with body parts, its usually been as the result of a child hurling it. In the hands of an adult, I believe the damage there would be greater potential for damage. Plus, they're made with glass components. How is this a good idea again?

A representative from the Androscoggin County jail, where for the past six months, the inmates have been allowed to use tablets, says the program has been working great there, and that the threat of someone using a tablet as a weapon was “no more than a food tray.”

I am all for inmates having the opportunity to better themselves while serving their time. I am all for supervised contact that allows for the retention of important relationships while protecting victims (past and potential). But I think there are other ways, that have worked in the past, like books and good old-fashioned letters. Perhaps if the tablet use was something that was earned, like kids earn increments of time for special activities, I think maybe the idea would have been met with less skepticism?

What do you think?

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