Griffo airs concerns over computer tablets for inmates

Published Feb 14, 2018 at 4:00pm

A local state senator is concerned by New York’s plan to give inmates a free computer tablet.

The electronic devices will give state inmates access to educational content, eBooks and music, officials said. They’ll also help inmates file grievances and allow them to communicate with family and friends through a secure email system. The tablets will not have internet access.

“If inmates are to have tablets, it is imperative that the tablets are, and should always be, monitored by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision or another entity to make sure this technology isn’t being misused or mishandled,” wrote state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, in a letter to Anthony J. Annucci, acting commissioner of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

“My concern is that these devices could make it easier to order and/or bring contraband into the state’s prisons, make it easier to order hits on other inmates and could make it easier to coordinate uprisings within facilities,” Griffo said.

“This could greatly impact the safety of the personnel working within these facilities.”

The tablets will be provided for free by JPay, a Florida-based company that offers services to inmates in correctional facilities.

“Many families and residents throughout my district, as well as the state, cannot afford luxuries such as tablets, laptops and other personal electronic equipment,” the senator also said. “If we can provide this technology for free to inmates, it would be better for the state to provide the same to students in schools and colleges throughout the state.

“I feel that it is imperative that we examine ways that we can help schools, libraries and other organizations receive the same treatment.”

Annucci announced the tablet program Jan. 31 during a state budget hearing.

There are about 51,000 state inmates.