Left to Their Devices

Who knew criminal justice reform would come with iPad knockoffs? The Hoosier state’s department of corrections has proposed putting computer tablets “in every Indiana inmate’s hands,” the Indianapolis Star reports. The electronic devices will come with the potential to access self-help materials, menus from the chow hall—and fun and games.

As in several other states that make tablet computers available to felons, officials “expect to use entertainment to reward good behavior,” the Star writes. “For example, an offender could be encouraged to stop racking up conduct reports in order to play more games.” Prison being, in terms of trapped tedium, not unlike a long family car trip, the devices are appealing to the warden for the same reason Mom gives the kids the iPad in the minivan—pacification. The marketing slogan for one company selling electronics tailored for convicts is “Busy inmates are well-behaved inmates.” Or, one might just as well say to those in lockup: Don’t get angry—get Angry Birds.

Of course, the high-minded goal is to get the inmates to use the computers for educational purposes. “If we don’t allow offenders to have real-world access to education, to programming, to electronic devices—then we’ve become part of the problem,” said an Indiana corrections official. Rutgers professor Todd Clear added that it’s a problem when offenders walk free and “don’t know how to download stuff” or “how to search.”

Ah yes, Google, that terrible cause of recidivism.

The Scrapbook thinks that assuming they “don’t know how to download stuff” is selling inmates short. Given a chance, some behind bars display a precocious knowledge of computer programming, a savvy they combine with a can-do sort of coding creativity. When the Napa County, Calif., jail tried making tablets available to its guests back in 2015 it found that several inmates were attempting factory resets, trying to hack their way through the devices’ security walls.

Which makes us wonder: When they lock up notorious characters such as Guccifer, what kind of computer do they give them?

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard

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