Inmates access tablets for education, training, entertainment at Utah County Jail
As of Nov. 9, inmates at the Utah County Jail have access to electronic tablets, enabling them to access educational, community, training, religious and entertainment resources. The tablets have been a benefit to inmates, say to jail personnel.
“We have been working to make this project happen for a couple of years, but with COVID and all the problems that created we couldn’t get the tablets,” said Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith. “The inmates have been excited and as patient as possible. I have had several during the process tell me how excited they are to get them.”
According to Utah County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Regan Clark, the tablets are provided through a contract with Securus, a communications company that also provides the phone, visiting and e-message systems for inmates. There are enough tablets for every inmate to be issued one each day, if wanted, unless they are on special watch or are high-risk status. There are approximately 460 inmates in the jail.
“Once they are classified, we issue them a tablet. They have the option to use the free content or to pay for extra services,” Clark said.
Free content includes clocks, calculators, financial histories, thousands of podcasts, religious apps, e-books and a job search app. Though inmates are able to research available jobs, they can not apply while in custody. According to Clark, that’s because inmates are not allowed to communicate with outside parties, but they can get information needed to go apply upon release.
Different educational apps provide K-8 and university content, along with videos like “Chasing the Dragon,” a documentary aimed at providing education about the dangers of drug addiction.
Clark said that an FYI app includes access to the inmate handbook, schedules, tablet rules, religious services and manuals, along with information on community resources such as shelters and mental health options. “There is a lot of potential there to do a lot of good,” he said.
Communication is a key component of the tablets. Before the tablets were available, inmates could only use phones when they came out of their cells for recreation time. But with the tablet, they can make calls to family members and friends from their cells. There are also options to send electronic messages and send digital cards, such as birthday cards, from the tablets. “We’ve had a lot of compliments from family and friends about this use,” Clark said.
Inmates can also order commissary items, such as food, hygiene supplies and postage stamps, through the tablets. For an additional $5 per month, inmates can get a subscription to additional content on their tablets including games, movies, national news, TV shows and music — though some content have additional costs per use.
According to Clark, there were no additional costs to the county to obtain the tablets. Deputies who work at the jail say that the program is going very well and it is a calm environment with their use. “Inmates say they are a lot happier,” he said.
Additionally, the tablets are secure — there is no way to access the internet or download an app or service that has not been approved. Inmates are able to get their tablets in the morning and can keep them until 9:30 p.m.
Clark said that he believes that the major benefit is in the educational programming, though there are plenty of positives.
“This would have been a great thing during COVID when things were shut down and we had to limit religious services to the jail,” he said. “Now they can look at religious, educational and community resources. They can find things to look forward to and work for when they are released.”