Skip to comments.Bergen Jail first to provide online legal aid in cells (Inmates are Provided Laptops)
Posted on 08/22/2007 10:23:07 PM PDT by Coleus
Bergen County Jail inmates who want to brush up on their legal defense can do so now from their cells, a move that officials say is a first nationwide. Jail officials have begun rolling out the first batch of 80 laptops each about the size and heft of a large hardcover novel to some of the 1,000 inmates who occupy the near-capacity lockup. About $100,000 has been spent so far from an account funded by profits from items purchased from inmates, such as toothpaste and candy bars, to buy the $1,200 notebooks and install the necessary wireless connections. The primary reason, says the man who runs the jail, is safety. "There's a risk each time you open a cell door," said Bergen Sheriff Leo P. McGuire, "and our library was getting too busy." Before, inmates who wanted to use the Westlaw research service had to file into the jail's law library, where 12 computers are crammed into the same space as guards and stacks of legal texts.
Now, they can request a laptop delivery to their cells, meal-style. They can then access Westlaw via an internal system. "There's virtually nothing else installed on these laptops," said Lenny Hennig, the jail's network administrator. Some question the move on other grounds, however. "As a victim, I don't feel that inmates should have any access to laptops," said Patricia Rybka, whose husband, Joseph, was killed 28 years ago by a prisoner he was guarding at what was then Bergen Pines County Hospital. "I have the utmost respect for [McGuire], but I can't agree with this."
All New Jersey-run corrections facilities have "a very cut-and-dried stand on computers: No Internet at all," said Matt Schuman, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections. But prisons hold people convicted of crimes, civil liberties advocates point out. Jails, with some exceptions, hold defendants awaiting their respective days in court. "We should remember that in most cases, the individuals [in jails] aren't guilty, so they're still on trial," said Edward Barocas, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. "They should be afforded their research time, no matter how they get it." Bergen officials say theirs is the first jail in the nation to provide laptops to inmates for that work. 'An innovative idea' Fred Wilson, director of operations for the Virginia-based National Sheriffs Association, said it was the first he had ever heard of such a move. "Knowing the sheriff, he's completely investigated any dangers in giving prisoners those pieces of equipment," Wilson said. "I think it's interesting. It's an innovative idea."
One motivation, jail officials say, is the large number of inmates detained by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which subcontracts for space at the Hackensack facility. Judges ordinarily allow such inmates with U.S. citizenship or immigration infractions more time than most to do legal research, said Benjamin Feldman, a sheriff's spokesman. Waiting lines for the law library's computers often have grown long, he said. "The complexities of their cases mean more research time, and we have a lot of them," Feldman said. Officials also cited the case of Darryl Bozeman, 42, of Teaneck, who was convicted last year of the murder of an elderly Englewood man during a botched home invasion in 2002. Bozeman, who now is serving his sentence at a maximum-security prison in Trenton, often requested and received additional hours for legal research while at the jail -- a thinly veiled way, McGuire claimed, of getting more time outside his cell. "He was on 23-hour lockdown, so he was going to the judges and asking for more time in the library," McGuire said. "In my viewpoint, he was manipulating the system as much as possible."
McGuire said that when officers slid a laptop through Bozeman's cell door, "his face dropped. He had no idea what to say." This marks the first time that the manufacturer, Psion Teklogix of Canada, has worked with a jail or prison, a company spokeswoman said. Psion Teklogix has contracted with the U.S. Department of Defense in recent years to provide digital tracking for security shipments. Its products are popular with warehouse inventory specialists for their ruggedness, said spokeswoman Monica Salvo. Jail officials say that's why they chose the company. "In the event an inmate decides to deface [a laptop], they can be additionally charged with criminal mischief," McGuire said. About 15 of the 3-pound notebooks currently are being used, Feldman said. Once all 80 become operational, four or five will be distributed to each of the jail's 13 housing units, which accommodate about 64 inmates apiece. They will then be deployed, on demand, by the housing unit's guards. "It takes some time to customize each of the laptops for jail use," said Hennig, the network administrator. Online chatting and e-mail applications, for instance, must be uninstalled. Officials expect that someday, inmates will be able to use the laptops to order medication or commissary goods. "If there's technology that makes a jail safer and more efficient, we're going to go for it," McGuire said.
Laptops behind bars:
What's happening? Bergen County Jail officials are providing laptops for inmates to use in their cells. Each machine is approximately 9 inches by 7 inches and weighs nearly 3 pounds. How many were bought? 80 For how much? $1,200 each Who is paying? The inmate welfare fund from the purchase of toothpaste and other staples (no taxpayer dollars, says Sheriff Leo McGuire). What type of access will inmates have? The laptops operate on a pared-down version of Windows and can run only Westlaw, the legal research. Inmates are allowed to use them for one hour at a time inside their cells. Any other uses? Inmates someday may be able to electronically fill out forms, such as sick-call requests or commissary orders. What if a laptop is damaged? Anyone caught damaging a laptop will be charged the full amount and could be charged with criminal mischief.
How convenient! How long will it be before we read about new and wonderful scams and con games being waged by our clever inmates plying their trade behind bars?
sd NJ taxpayers...so proud of how the pokiticans rip us off with the highest taxes in the nation so that criminals can have laptops.....
free mdical/free dental/free laptops/conjugal visits/3 hots & a cot...any more benefits and watch the prison population will explode!!!!!!
What ever happened to prison being... well, PRISON? Prison is suppose to be a repayment of your debt to society, not society paying YOU a debt...
These aren’t regular laptops with games and Internet access and all that, they’re stripped down machines that basically just let them access an online law library. Online law libraries are a lot cheaper than books. They were apparently getting to use the same online library before but they had to do it in the law library, which means guards have to keep them in line on the way to the library and watch them while they are there. They’re saying there were long lines to get into the library and all this was a hassle and a security risk. They really can turn a laptop into really what is just a legal research appliance that can do nothing else, so maybe it is a better idea for the people that run the jail to let inmates preparing for trial check one of these out for an hour here and there rather than expending the man hours and subjecting themselves to unnecessary risk marching these guys out to the law library all the time.
If you go back and READ, you will see that taxpayers dollars are NOT used. That’s the perfect example of how ignorant people can be to the facts, by not reading the entire story.
Also, prison is NOT a place for punishment, BEING IN PRISON IS the punishment. If you think being in prison with a few things like tv’s, cd players, or even laptops is a pat on the back for inmates, you are ignorant to reality.
Prison sucks. Trust me. I’ve been through it for a bogus charge that no one (but the D/A) felt I should be there for. Having to wake up at their time, go to bed at their time, limited time outside, eating the crappy food, not being able to talk to family (yes, remember, people in prison do have family and why should they suffer, especially if you have kids who miss you), and many other freedoms that people like YOU take for granted.
The inmates paid for the few things they have. Also, some items, such luxury’s as you might call them, are rewards for good behavior. Yes, the State is responsible for any health related issue while in their custody. So, can’t you see why it’s good to have incentives? If inmates were to be stabbing, fighting, or hurting each other every day, think of the taxpayers cost for emergency care. Inmates are still people and most inmates DO get out and become contributors to society, paying taxes! An inmate that just sits around getting dumber by day because of no educational tools, such as laptops, becomes a burden on society upon release. Wouldn’t you rather see a rehabilitated, educated person getting out of jail or prison? That person is many times less likely to re-offend.
Quit whining about how prisons affect your taxes and acting like they have ‘luxuries’ they shouldn’t have. It’s much more safer for YOU and costs you LESS in the long run to have inmates with an ability to get back into society rather than one who can’t get a job because he/she lacks any of today’s skills.
if you want to complain about taxes and cost, tell your government to quit locking offender up (60% would likely be an average that don’t need to be locked up) and put them in some form of treatment. Not only is treatment about half the cost, but the offender can still work in society and pay taxes while paying for the crime accused.
One last note. the reason the US has more prisoners than any other country in the entire world (US has 5% of worlds population, yet has 25% of worlds prisoners), is because of greed and/or money. Prisons in America have become a cash crop for many, including those prisons that are on the stock market. How can anyone justify making money of another human beings loss of freedom. Oh, and those high taxes you pay for prisoners, the private prison industry, those making profits, do so because they take YOUR money, say $50/day for a prisoner, and only apply about half that to the actual cost. So, why, again, is it that you are complaining about what prisoners have and the taxes you are paying? Go to the source of the high costs and complain to them and do what YOU can do to help prisoners become better people so that we can begin shrinking the prison population and reducing taxes.
That’s my piece, and yes, based on FACTS!
Again, PLEASE READ the entire article before making an ignorant reply. Ignorant, meaning that you are not educating yourself fully to the truth.
These laptops, and any other possible laptops, are stripped of their capability to access normal channels of the internet. If you had any computer/network experience, you would know that it is very easy to deny access to any sites on the internet, or easier yet, only allow access to certain sites. Also, have you heard of an intranet? That’s an internal network that would allow the ‘feel’ of being on the Internet, without evening go outside the business, or building in question, and having access to certain information.
So, before you think inmates will be conducting crimes on laptops, go to your nearest library, or even take a course in computer networking. you will see it can be made impossible for what you are claiming they might do.
I challenge you to go to prison for at least 6 months. No, those lame 3-5 day things don’t work to show people what it’s like. After 6 months, then come back and see if what you said has any reality.
Prison IS the punishment. You don’t get sent to prions to BE punished. You are sent to COURT to be punished. The court then places you into prison custody for your punishment.
Lost of freedom is devastating. So, go give it a try and see if you think inmates have a life of paradise that most seem to think.
To be honest, yeah, I thought your way before I managed to get locked up. Why should prisoners have all this stuff. Well, the media has a way to make it sound like they have all sorts of luxuries. It’s not like that. They get rewarded to have a few better things that they’ve earned. It’s better to show inmates that hard work to do the right things will get you a better place in life, and there’s not many options to achieve that. Plus, an inmate with the lack of education and skills when released is likely to re-offend. Maybe you think, well good, he/she will be sent back to where they belong. If that’s the case, then I hope it’s someone, if not you, in your family that is affected because then, and only then, you will see the benefits to allowing inmates having access to tools that will make them educated, including TV’s, which are limited to certain channels such as Discovery, TLC (The Learning Channel), and many more.
Promote rehabilitation not ignorance and more crime.
Westlaw is not cheap!
WOW! I had to go back and re-read the original post and my reply. Been nearly two and a half years since I made that post...
Anyway - I have a close friend who spent several years in prison - a maximum security facility. He and I have had several opportunities to sit down and talk about it. He did not enjoy prison. But he was able, through good behavior (after a rough start) to work his way into the chaplain program, so his last couple of years were not quite as bad. He does mention the loss of freedom and how hard that is.
But that hasn’t changed my view on prison and the purpose for them. We should never forget that people (you included) get locked up for a reason - breaking the law. I won’t pool all convicts into the same lump - but I know directly several individuals who came out of prison (their first time, second time... etc.) saying that they didn’t really care if they got caught again - life in prison wasn’t so bad - food better than outside, A/C which they didn’t have where they lived outside of the pen, cable TV, etc. While I am sure that some of what they said (and continue to say) is more for show than sincere feelings - again, how can someone not have a fear or loathing of the prospect of going back?
And go back to the opening post of this thread - it was regarding a specific benefit above and beyond what the general population of the country have access too.
And please - who posted anything about prisoners having a life of paradise? Some may have it slightly better in than out - but I don’t believe I used the term “paradise”.
Wow. Mighty mouthy for a guy who’s been here 10 days. Think a lot of yourself, do ya?