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Inmates testing tablets at the Pima County Jail

Posted at 10:14 PM, Jan 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-02 11:43:49-04
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- Inmates at the Pima County Jail are testing out tablets that allow them to call family members, play games and read books.
Captain Sean Stewart with the Pima County Sheriff's Departments says the Inmate Communication Devices have been in use for four months. About 120 inmates are testing them, he said. 
"If the inmate has this, it gives him all this access to his family," Stewart said. "It gives him the ability to do things here to keep his mind off why he's here. So it gives my officers the ability to use it as a corrective behavior instrument."
The ICD's are made by a company called Global Tel Link and are designed specifically for correctional facilities. Stewart says the jail has a contract with the company, and the tablets are at no extra cost to taxpayers. Inmates pay $2.25 for 15 minute phone calls, and Stewart says calls are recorded and closely monitored by staff. 
While critics say the technology is a privilege inmates shouldn't have, Stewart say it's prove to be a valuable jail management tool. Inmates do not have access to the Internet.
"In the four months where we've had these tablets, or the communication devices, I haven't had to move any inmates to disciplinary housing," Stewart said. "The inmates don't want to lose them."
Stewart also made the point that most of the inmates at the jail have not been convicted of a crime. He said of the around 1,900 inmates at the jail, about 270 of them have been convicted and the rest are going through court proceedings. 
While he couldn't discuss the details of his case, Nine On Your Side spoke to one inmate who says even that little bit of freedom encourages positive behavior. Instead of getting in fights or dwelling on mistakes, he says it's a way for them to learn and move on.
"It definitely sends a sense of the outside," he said. "To where you want to get out, to where you want to do more."
Stewart says the jail hopes to expand the program so every inmate can buy movies, and have access to programs like AA or anger management. 
Three of the tablets have broken, two by accident, Stewart says, but they haven't had any other issues. He says most inmates ask when they will receive them.
Stewart says they hope to expand in the next few months.