SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The San Francisco County Jail will be the first in the nation to provide inmates with free access to content-rich tablet computers, according to the City and County of San Francisco. The initiative, described as a joint effort between the City and County, the SF County Sheriff’s Office, and the SF Public Library, will expand on a pilot program first implemented by the SF Sheriff’s Office in 2014.
The original pilot program was designed to enhance education and learning for people in custody.
“With help from our City partners, we have been able to build up this program to offer a broad range of free media that has never been afford to people in any jail, and will take the financial burden of off incarcerated people’s families,” said Sheriff Paul Miyamoto. “This is ultimately about reducing recidivism and bolstering crime prevention. Giving people the tools they need in order to learn and access media can be a motivating factor as they look toward a life beyond jail.”
The San Franciso Mayor’s Office has committed to providing $500,000 annually from the City’s General Fund to support the program’s implementation and maintenance. This program will be free to people incarcerated in SF County jails, unlike other tablet programs across the nation, which charge inmates fees.
“This is an important enhancement to our justice system that will help continue our reform work that eliminates the high cost of incarceration,” said Mayor London Breed. “People in our jail system should have access to technology resources that afford them the opportunity to develop new skills and stay connected while they serve their time.”
“Supposedly ‘free’ tablets too often cost incarcerated people and their families a fortune,” said SF Treasurer Jose Cisneros. “The tablets are loaded up with charges like three cents a minute to read an e-book. Private corporations and governments split the profits, while incarcerated people’s grandmothers are socked with a bill they can’t afford.”
Many of these charges fall on incarcerated people’s families, who are often low income and people of color. Under the program, people in jail will be able to use the tablets to look up legal questions on the device’s law library, read books, communicate with teachers and speak with family members — all at no charge.