Jail inmates with good behavior can get access to tablets

SANDUSKY (AP) - Inmates in some Michigan jails are getting access to tablet computers to stay busy and prepare for life outside bars.

The tablets allow inmates in Sanilac County to look at news reports, job-search software and games. With earbuds, they can also use the tablets as a phone.

"It makes the time go by faster," inmate Clayton Troyer told the Port Huron Times Herald.

The tablets are connected to an intranet system at the jail, not the Internet. They're free for 60 days, then $30 a month to rent. A contractor gets $20.

"This is only for good behavior," Sanilac County Sheriff Garry Biniecki said. "If we have an inmate that's acting up and they get locked down, there's nothing saying they have to have access to this. It's reinforcement for good behavior."

In February, St. Clair County plans to have tablets in jail, and more counties are expected to follow. The state Corrections Department, which runs the prison system, might consider them, too.

"Our whole profession is changing," said Blaine Koops, the sheriff in Allegan County in western Michigan. "The mission isn't just to incarcerate; that mission now is to have that inmate leave the jail better than they were before. ... And, truly, that is purely economic because if we can reduce that recidivism rate, we save money for the county."

Cody VanBlaricum, an inmate in Sanilac County, noticed a difference.

"It's a lot quieter in the cells," he said.

Published: Tue, Jan 05, 2016