CBS6 Investigates: New details on how controversial prison tablet program is paid for


After we pressed for answers, today spokesmen for the New York State Dept. of Corrections and Community Supervision released more details on the state's program that will provide 50,000 electronic tablets to prison inmates across the state, enabling them to download books, music and movies.

CBS 6’s Anne McCloy emailed DOCCS about 20 questions Thursday, and got responses on about half of them. Friday, she pressed again and learned just how the state's controversial new tablet program will work.

Public outcry over inmate tablets has been flooding the internet since DOCCS tweeted the announcement the devices would be made available to every NYS inmate.

State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara D- Rotterdam, shares some of their sentiments.

“I am absolutely against this. I’m against it on principle,” Santabarbara said.

DOCCS declined our request for an on-camera interview for the second day in a row, but today agreed to answer the list of questions over the phone.

The prison program is similar to the tablet program that already exists in the Albany County Jail, but it’s not identical.

Like in the county program, the state's tablets are provided and paid for by an outside company. The state's is called JPay.

We’re told each inmate will get a tablet, charger and ear buds they are responsible for. The device will travel with them if they're moved to another facility.

The DOCCS spokesmen said JPay charges a fee to inmates every time they download books, music or other media from a secure network, which is how the company is compensated.

Unlike Albany County’s program, the state won't generate any revenue from the tablets. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says his jail takes a percentage of the profits totaling about $1400 a month, but spokesmen for DOCCS says under state law, the prison system can't do that.

The Albany County Jail did have to invest some taxpayer money in order to install charging stations for its’ tablet program, money the sheriff said would be paid back quickly through the profits made.

DOCCS said there will be no taxpayer money involved in charging or storing the tablets in state prison.

When we asked for a response to public outcry, DOCCS spokesmen said the program will help with prison safety by keeping inmates busy, and will help inmates prepare for transition back into society.

The DOCCS spokesmen said they the department will launch a pilot program with the tablets later in 2018 in three NYS prisons, which have not yet been selected. Once DOCCS feels ready, the spokesmen said DOCCS would expand the program into all 54 state prisons.

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