Moving into the 21st century, Florida DOC has initiated a tablet program that offers educational tools to inmates trapped in an otherwise desolate environment. The tablets are equipped with calculaters, notepads, daily planners, as well as a full catalogue of free educational content through the Khan Academy. With e-mail capability, inmates can now have legal documents stored on their tablet, instead of lugging around armfuls of papers.
Unfortunately, not everyone likes the idea of inmates actually being given the tools they need to succeed. As is often the case in Florida, prison staff are doing anything they can to stifle the effectiveness of the program, curtailing the inmates' abilities to use the tools that their families have paid for. Although inmates have received the devices, they are being hindered at every turn by staff who arbitrarily limit access to the recharging stations, or create unwritten policies to curtail the programs effectiveness.
At Mayo Correctional Institution, for example, Warden Travis Lamb has instituted an unwritten rule that no tablets may be brought into the education building or library areas, where they would have the greatest impact as educational tools. Every morning an officer is stationed at the entrance, who verbally announces this policy, then requires each inmate to pass through a metal detector before being allowed inside. The only stated reason is to stop inmates from listening to music while in class. If that was really the case, though, prohibiting headphones would have been sufficient.
The truth of the matter is that the prison system in Florida was designed to keep convicted criminals seperated from the rest of society, rather than helping them back into it. "Rehabilitation" would run counter to that agenda, and the good-old-boys who have run the prisons here for generations will do anything to keep it that way.
The situation will continue to worsen as America's prisons remain "revolving-door" facilities, run by staff who were literally bred into their positions that are rooted in oppression. Despite the valiant attempts of our political leaders, the problems we face are systemic, requiring determined and sustained effort to bring any real chances of success. What may seem like insignificant problems for today's prison populations are actually serious issues that have real effects on all of us.
I would encourage everyone who cares about bettering our society as a whole to take an active interest in prison reform. Your input can make the diffence when it comes to oppressive policies that are designed to thwart progress, and today's technology makes it easier than ever for society's voice to be heard. Passing e-mails to people and organizations on any scale is now possible with only the smallest effort required, but can have the power to bring real results, instantly.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Brian Glick is serving a natural life sentence for 2nd degree murder. He is certified by the Florida Dept. of Corrections as an inmate law clerk, and has been active in prison litigation for over ten years. He can be contacted via email at JPay.com using ID # R45761