June 9, 2021
By News Director Jared Atha
Inmates at North Fork Correctional Center in Sayre began receiving special computer tablets this week, as part of a Department of Corrections plan to provide secure tablets to all inmates at state prisons.
The devices, specially designed by prisons communications company Securus Technologies, will include free content such as prison policies, access to a law library, some books and educational and self-help materials. Inmates can also pay to receive music, movies, games and television programs, as well as to send and receive messages, including video messages, to and from their families. The tablets do not have unrestricted access to the internet.
Usually, inmates wanting to receive educational or vocational training must be escorted to a classroom or program location. But, according to prison officials, inmates can now receive those services directly on the tablet.
In a report from the Associated Press, there are some drawbacks to providing inmates with tablets. According to a 2019 report from the Prison Policy Initiative, the “free” tablets frequently charge users above-market prices for services. Oklahoma’s contract with the company allows a 25-cent charge for emails and 75 cents for outbound video messages. Music can cost up to $1.99 per song or $14.99 per album, while the cost for one television episode can range from $1.70 to $2.28.
Some 21,000 inmates are currently incarcerated by the state, making the plan potentially very lucrative for Securus.
However, the Department of Corrections also benefits financially from the arrangement, receiving $3.5 million annually from the communications company for the first five years of the contract, and $3.75 million for the next five years.
Similar programs allowing inmates to access secure tablets have been rolled out in other states, including Arizona, Connecticut and Utah, but Oklahoma is one of the first in the nation to combine the company’s latest tablet and operating system.