Officials may consider iPad, tablet access for W.Va. inmates

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Inmates in West Virginia’s regional jails could soon have access to Apple iPads and other digital tablets.

The idea is in the early stages of development but state officials may consider allowing inmates to purchase or lease iPads and Android-based tablets with their commissary money, said David Farmer, director the Regional Jail Authority.

Farmer told the Regional Jail Authority’s Board of Directors on Monday that doing so could improve the quality of life behind bars and decrease altercations between troublesome inmates.

Inmates could use the devices to watch movies or listen to music.

“It’s definitely on the cutting edge,” Farmer said.

Digital tablets could benefit both the authority and inmates by generating revenue and providing extended access to online law libraries, GED classes and other rehabilitative resources, he said.

Studies of the San Francisco jail system found that a similar program there, in conjunction with established education programs, has helped reduce the inmate recidivism rate by nearly 40 percent.

Prisons in at least seven states, including Ohio and Virginia, grant such access on stripped-down devices that have limited Internet access.

Devices in other states have been provided through donations or grants, in addition to being purchased by inmates. Farmer indicated that commissary funds could be used in West Virginia if the authority approves a similar program.

Farmer and other jail officials plan to visit a 3,000-inmate facility in Tennessee in August to evaluate their tablet program.