Those incarcerated at the Cape Girardeau County Jail in Jackson will soon have access to individual portable tablets, specifically made for jail and prison populations. The Cape Girardeau County approved a three-year contract with Securus Technology to supply the tablets at no cost to the county.
“These tablets are built specifically with specifications for inmate settings,” Sheriff Ruth Ann Dickerson said. “They are not a tablet you can go to Walmart or Best Buy to get.”
Jail Administrator Richard Rushin said the county has had a contract with Securus Technology for around seven years, with Securus providing phone services and video kiosks at the jail for virtual visits.
“We will still have the kiosks, but you will now be able to make calls off of the tablet,” Rushin said, noting that incarcerated individuals would be charged for each phone call and would be given their own earbuds to not disturb others. “They can also play games on the tablets and, if you have money put in your account, you can buy songs or movies.”
The county is guaranteed $210,000 in revenue from Securus Technology in the new contract, compared to the county receiving around$90,000 each year through only revenue from the video kiosks.
Incarcerated individuals would be able to pay for phone calls, movies and music through their commissary fund. Rushin said indigent individuals without families or money would still have access to many free apps including some games, religious books and a law library.
Rushin said the guaranteed income for the county is based on having an average daily population of 240 people or more in the jail. He said the jail is currently averaging 260 inmates, while the current county jail was built to house 218 people.
“When you are overcrowded and people have nothing but time on their hands, tempers start to flare,” Rushin said. “One of the reasons we went this route is because this is a tool that keeps people occupied and focused on other things, instead of focusing on nothing but negatives.”
One of the reasons the county chose to go with Securus Technology out of the six companies that sent proposals to the county is that Securus offered to include a full-time tech to work in the jail and help the county’s staff with the new tablets and kiosks.
“A lot of your facilities with 500 inmates or more usually have an in-house tech,” Rushin said. “Since they know that’s the future we’re going with, they added that in there and it was something nobody else offered in the process.”
The tablets are built to be rugged, but will be replaced by Securus in the event one breaks with no cost to the county. Dickerson added that the tablets will be connected to a closed down Wi-Fi network and incarcerated individuals will not have access to the worldwide web or any programs not built for these tablets.
“It is a specific system that is designed just for these tablets for the inmates,” Dickerson said. “It will be locked down and the tech on site will be able to monitor that and make sure everything stays where it needs to be.”
Dickerson said the tablets will make jobs easier for her staff, no longer having to hand out library books. “It eliminates the paperback shuffle and people taking them and tearing them up,” she said. “They will now have books to read pretty well on demand.”
Incarcerated individuals will be able to contact their attorney using the tablets unmonitored. Rushin said all other phone calls through the tablet would be monitored with voice analysis, which he said has helped in previous investigations. Rushin added that jail staff would also be able to send messages across all the tablets about the jail’s rules or any problems they’ve been seeing.
“I think it’s a great thing for our jail and for our staff,” Rushin said. “Not that we want to reward people who’ve done bad thing, but at the same time, we need to keep the peace and protect everybody that’s in here. That’s our responsibility and if this is a tool that will help us do that, then I think it’s a great thing to use.”
Rushin noted that everyone in the county jail has not been sentenced and has not been convicted of a crime. “People are stressed when they are going to trial,” he said. “It’s easier on our staff when the inmates are more relaxed and it’s also a tool where, if they don’t follow the rules, we can take the tablet away from them.”
The contract with Securus has a one-year probationary period, where the contract can be ended with a 30-day notice if the county feels what was promised in the contract wasn’t met. “This is a big leap for us and we want to make sure to get it right,” Rushin said.
Rushin said the tablets will be installed and ready by the end of April.