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NY inmates texting, gaming, streaming music behind bars

ALBANY, N.Y. (WRGB) - Dennis Nopper has been in the Albany County Jail for three months on charges of forgery, and he's spent a portion of that time doing what you do at home on your couch.

“You can text through Gmail and Yahoo to your loved ones and they can send pictures,” Nopper said.

The tablets connect to Wi-Fi and allow the inmates to download music, videos and apps.

“They have games which makes the time go by faster,” Nopper said.

The tablets are part of a program launched by the jail about two months ago. They’re operated through a company called Telmate.

Sheriff Craig Apple says the tablets are available for use by all 623 inmates, unless the person is in trouble for bad behavior.

“It has to be approved, first of all, and it’s all monitored,” Apple said.

Apple says inmates can only chat with approved contacts on the outside, and says conversations are monitored by investigators and then stored.

“Everything is kept for months and months,” Apple said.

There are 103 tablets in the jail right now. We wanted to know, who paid for them?

The sheriff says not a single taxpayer dollar went toward the tablets. The inmates and their families can put money in an account to be used toward the services.

“You could go to the jail and put in $100 or $200,” Apple said.

Apple says the inmates are charged up to $0.05 per minute. The company that supplies the tablets takes a cut, and so does the county. Apple says the county money will go toward repairs at the jail.

He says the tablets serve several purposes.

First, he says the distraction is good.

“When inmates are busy, you have a safer facility,” Apple said.

Second, he says it’s good for society, giving inmates a goal of reconnecting with family and staying out of trouble.

“I know some people are going to sit back, and go, wow, you’re in jail, you should be paying the price or whatever, but jail is supposed to correct the behavior. It’s not supposed to, you know, kill someone in there,” Apple said.

The tablets also give inmates free access to the law library where they can research cases to defend themselves in court. Before the launch of the tablets, Apple says inmates could only access the library at certain hours of the day.

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