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Hall County Debates Tablets for Inmates

07 Dec 2023, Jail News, by

Tablets for inmates: Hall County weighs in on digital solutions to enhance communication and address staffing challenges.

Hall County Debates Tablets for Inmates - Inmate Lookup

Hall County officials are grappling with the idea of using tablets for inmates, a move that could enhance communication and reduce contraband risks but raises concerns about privileges and costs.

Inmates undergo thorough searches at Hall County jail due to the challenges of keeping contraband at bay. Corrections Director Todd Bahensky revealed to commissioners that the facility has encountered issues with drugs being smuggled through mailed items.

The proposal to introduce tablets for inmates has been considered a solution to combat the contraband threat. Commissioner Scott Sorensen also acknowledged the broader issue of staffing shortages, stating that correctional facilities are having trouble finding good employees.

One potential benefit of providing tablets is the ability to conduct legal meetings online, eliminating the need to physically pull inmates out of their cells. Hall County already utilizes video kiosks, and the move to tablets aligns with the trend observed in numerous prisons and jails, including those in neighboring counties.

Buffalo County shared positive outcomes, reporting improved inmate behavior attributed to the ability to communicate via email. Chad Hunt, representing Buffalo County, highlighted the significance of inmate-family communication in maintaining order within the facility.

An administrator from Seward County joined him, representing one of the Nebraska county jails that use tablets. Hall County proposed to utilize tablets featuring pre-approved content, excluding TikTok or web browsing, but including books, newspapers, legal documents, and educational materials.

Buffalo County has been providing movies and other content on tablets since 2017, according to Hunt. Seward County Detention Director Maria Hatfield, while undecided on movies, confirmed inmates in Seward County have access to books, educational services, and music, which has a calming effect.

Sorensen suggested a compromise, proposing that Hall County detainees use tablets to access newspapers, books, magazines, and legal services but be denied access to movies and music.

The majority on the board, however, rejected this proposal, stating that, similar to parents taking away devices, inmates should lose privileges.

Commissioner Gary Quandt said that if parents send their children to their room and give them a tablet, the kids might think it’s a joke.

The expense of tablets—not to the county, but to the prisoners—is another argument against them. Sending an email can cost anywhere from 10 to 25 cents. Some counties charge for movies or music that is streamed. Quandt expressed worry that this puts a burden on families to find the money to support their loved ones who are detained.