DuPage County jail inmates soon will be using tablets for applications ranging from communicating with jail staff to registering for classes to playing games.
The new program is being rolled out this month with approximately five tablets being distributed for every 16 inmates. Eventually, officials said, every inmate will have his or her own tablet.
"A major part of this is to increase our efficiencies and limit any additional work," Sgt. Robert Harris said. "We will increase the number of tablets in the day rooms in order to meet the demand for them so that inmates have access to them at any time."
Harris said the tablets are being provided at no cost from the vendor, GTL, which specializes in inmate telephone systems, visitation management solutions, jail management systems and inmate education programs.
"Inmates are charged fees when they make purchases, which is what finances the tablets for GTL," Harris said. "GTL bears the cost of all upfront implementation and continuing support. Inmates pay a fee for streaming music and movies, secure messaging and games during daytime hours."
Sheriff's officials say the tablets have been proven to reduce inmate violence and staff assaults in other facilities. Direct internet access and social media sites will be restricted.
Inmates also will have the ability to set up a direct message portal with family and friends on the outside.
"The direct messaging portal is a secure messaging system that can only be initiated by an individual outside of the jail," Harris said. "The public can create and fund the account and then send a message in to an inmate."
Harris said the inmate will be able to respond only to that person.
"Messages are flagged for review by our staff if they contain any of the key words on a list that we have created," he said.
In all, officials say a reduction of inmate movement within the jail creates a safer environment for both inmates and staff while reducing the costs of incarceration for taxpayers.
"This project has been planned for the past three years and I am proud to see it implemented," Sheriff John Zaruba said in a written statement. "The safety of my deputies and the inmates are the first priority and saving tax dollars come a close second. This project accomplishes both."