GOOD

Tiny Pink Tablets Could Seriously Change America’s Prison System Forever

It’s all about feeling connected

Image via JPay

It’s that time of year again. So far this October, you’ve likely seen people flaunting pink bracelets, pins, coffee mugs, shirts, shoes, and lip balm—even buckets of fried chicken—all in the name of breast cancer awareness. After all, it is national Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is why one company decided to provide a useful pink product to a population of people who rarely get to participate: the incarcerated.


In a partnership with the American Cancer Society, inmate services company JPay produced limited edition pink tablets and made them available for inmates to purchase in North Dakota, Ohio, and Washington prisons, along with the North Lake facility in Michigan. For every tablet purchased, JPay, one of a handful of tablets available to inmates, plans to plans to donate $10 to the American Cancer Society, which funds research, patient services, early detection, treatment, and education. Other companies like Securus and GTL produce prison tablet technology as well.

Within a week of being released, the pink tablets sold out, surprising manufacturers and prison wardens alike. JPay CEO Errol Feldman attributes the tablet’s unprecedented popularity to a prison-wide desire to volunteer, saying in a press release, “For inmates, the pink-colored tablet and cases are tangible representations of their passion for the cause, something they own and use every day, not just a simple receipt from a monetary donation. It means something more.”

Image via BlogQpot

Dig a little deeper, though, and it seems inmates have an urgent desire to be technologically savvy. With the tablets, inmates can play games, download music, and send emails to their friends and family. While the tablets aren’t connected to the internet and can only be operated for 15 minutes at a time, the devices provide inmates a chance to feel normal in this increasingly tech-centric world. For Walter Olsen, who’s currently serving a four-year sentence at the North Dakota State Penitentiary, being able to play games and pass the time is an added benefit that keeps him from losing sight of the end goal: reintegrating into society.

Troy Schulz, the deputy warden at the North Dakota State Penitentiary, would agree that incorporating technology into the prison system is a necessity for the basic reason that it helps inmates transition more seamlessly into the real world upon release. On his decision to provide pink tablets, he says, “I was able to address two goals of mine at once. One, by introducing more advanced technology into the facility, and the other by representing the department well in the community by the offenders being able to donate and give something back to society.”

For Olsen, supporting breast cancer research is a no brainer, particularly since his cousin was diagnosed with the disease a couple years ago, as was his step-grandmother. Ultimately, though, he says this purchase has to do with maintaining a connection with the outside world. At a cost of $74.99 for the mini tablets and $119.99 for the pink JP5s seven inch tablets, inmates use their own money to buy the devices, which Schulz says is a privilege they earn. According to Schulz, about 60 to 70 percent of the inmates at his facility currently own a tablet, and most use money earned from their jobs within the prison to pay for it, although friends and family can send money as well.

Giving inmates more opportunities to give back to the community goes hand in hand with providing crucial skills to succeed outside of prison. Schulz says a big part of his job is finding a balance between maintaining security and making prison as similar to normal life as possible. “Prison is the restriction of liberties, not the loss of rights,” he says, adding that his “responsibility is to ensure we put people in the best position to succeed when they do get out, while maintaining a safe environment for them to be rehabilitated.” Particularly for inmates who have been in prison for decades, it’s a daunting task for wardens like Schulz to ensure offenders are able to apply to jobs and use current technology as it rapidly adapts.

Countless studies have shown that inmates who stay connected with loved ones have lower rates of recidivism. In Olsen’s case and in the cases of many other fellow inmates, something as simple as a computer game can improve their overall outlook. “As far as getting out, I’ve got to go home and take care of my kids and get back into the routine of everyday life,” he says, “It’s stressful at times, but I’ve got a lot of family support to help me out.” With more programs like JPay’s that are designed to make prisons more positive environments and increase connectivity to the outside world, we can only expect conditions to improve in every aspect of society.

Articles
via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet