Prisons and technology: General lessons from the American context
In preparing this chapter, the authors relied on a number of technological innovations to communicate and collaborate. Both sent emails back and forth, checking those emails on their smartphones, and replying while on the go, sometimes by text message. Important contacts were interviewed, primarily by cell phone, to provide their insight on the implementation and innovation of technology within corrections and prisons. Eventually, the ﬁnal product was typed up (on a rather old laptop), submitted, again via email, to the editors, and prepared for consumption. Indeed, you may be reading this chapter on an e-reader or tablet. The ubiquity of communication technology has become so engrained in our modern world that it is jarring to imagine situations where this technology does not exist. Prisons, notoriously technologically impoverished, are a telling case in point and the focus of this chapter. In such settings as the prison, the rarity of modern communication technology is notable, prompting me to comment, nearly ten years ago, that inmates were fast becoming ‘cavemen in an era of speed-of-light technology’ (Johnson 2005: 263). (This metaphor was adopted by Jewkes and Johnston (2009: 132, 135) to suggest commonalities between prisons in America and the UK). Here, I partner with Hail-Jares to assess how prisons have adopted communication technologies and made them available to inmates. Speciﬁcally, we ask whether American inmates, captives of a massive and repressive correctional system, are still stuck in the technological version of the Paleolithic Age or whether they are notably more able to keep up with technological innovation and stay in touch with those on the outside. In this chapter, we report on a survey in which we explore how prisons in the USA use communication technology, how much access inmates have in practice, what trends are emerging in the availability and use of technology, and how access to technology entails both beneﬁts and costs to inmates.
Handbook on Prisons
Criminology not elsewhere classified