NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Each Davidson County inmate has been given their own tablet to keep records, learn about the jail, make calls from their cell and even play games. They do not have access to surf the internet.
The Davidson County Jail is one of the first in the state to do it. In fact, the sheriff agreed to allowing tablets as a new, better way of managing and controlling the inmates.
It used to be that an unauthorized cell phone in a jail cell was considered contraband, but with the new policy, every single inmate has their own tablet in their own cell.
"They asked if I wanted a tablet and I said what? A tablet," asked inmate Jacob Walker?
Forgive him if initially he thought the staff at the Davidson County jail was offering him a pill. But, no. They gave him an actual tablet or I-Pad.
"Having this is like having a piece of the outside world brought in to you," said Walker.
Under the new program all 1,500-plus inmates are provided a personal tablet for the duration of their stay.
"You've got music. Listen to music all night. Play games all night," said inmate Anthony Nix.
"This doesn't cost the taxpayer one penny," said Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, who started testing the tablet program last August.
He said it works on several levels.
"It's a management tool. It allows us to manage the inmate better. The information is better and it results in less movement among inmates. It's a safety improvement as well," said Sheriff Hall.
The tablets are provide by Global Tel Link, the company that won the open bid for jail communications.
The jail makes nothing, but GTL gets revenue when inmates order items. For instance, the inmates can order the music for $25 a month.
Inmates can also buy games, and most importantly the tablets allow for calls from jail cells instead of inmates in lines waiting to use the communal pay phones.
"You got a lot of people who don't come out of their cells now because of tablets. Less likely to have fights? Oh yeah," said Nix.
Jail staff said the tablets are a definite calming influence. They help occupy the inmates.
One other benefit. It will help with the visitation process. Sheriff Hall says eventually the jail version of Skype will be available on mounted tablets in a common area so inmates can talk with family members face to face wherever the family may live. Again, the inmates are not be able to surf the web ... or send out texts or emails. As for the phone calls? As always all communications will still be closely monitored and recorded by the jail.