Those of us living in the Denver metro area had an awakening on the Denver Post front page of May 9th. The headline “Tablet Pros & Cons: Inmates enjoying wireless devises, but program sparks concern” was indeed quite a surprise. According to the story, about 8,000 inmates are participating in a trial run of the program, with hopes of delivering the tablets to another 18,000 in Colorado prisons and the additional 1.8 million doing time in the United States.
We understand why the program “sparks concern” don’t we? Still, there were guards and prison officials telling about the positive side. Apparently, the prison population isn’t as aggressive with one another and there are less morale problems. That makes sense. Now, instead of beating each other up the inmates can learn new things and speak to relatives more often. Furthermore, security for the tablets is very tight, so the anxiety over inmates having more access to their fellow gang members and partners in crime is less of a worry than originally thought. As one inmate remarked, “These tabs have been a new piece of life in here.” So, what does a “new piece of life” mean to a person in prison? For one thing, they can listen to their favorite music, they will eventually have access to vocational and educational programming, live video tutoring by licensed men in trades such as plumbers and electricians. These are all good things.
On the other side of this program, we can only imagine how the Victims of Homicide and Missing Persons Organization feels about the “rehabilitation” program. Rob Wells, whose brother was murdered in 1983 said, “I’m a little stunned. They are not there to be catered to and offered all the comforts of home.” That’s certainly true. However, we also know that educating inmates prevents some of them from ending right back in prison once they’ve been released.
Lest we lose sight of the capitalism aspect of the program, it’s important that we realize taxpayers are not paying for these tablets. No … the ingenuity, inspiration, and knack for making money behind the program is Global Tel Link (GTL) Corporation. They are giving the tablets to the inmates, and if everything goes their way, their $270 million investment will pay dividends in spades, because the inmates purchase the applications. For example, it costs $6.59 for a two-month subscription to music and games. Let’s see, $6.59 x 1.8 million inmates in the U.S. — you get the picture.
Don’t misunderstand, I applaud the creativity and hope found in such a program, because it’s humane treatment of those we’re supposed to love (“love your enemies” Matthew 5:44). I’m just surprised that the idea wasn’t formulated by Paul Allen, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs ten or more years ago.
What do you think? Is this program a good or bad thing? More important, can you love your enemies?
God bless …