Associated Press

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) – A county jail in Illinois may begin providing Android tablets to its inmates.

The Winnebago County Board’s Public Safety Committee met with tablet vendor Global Tel Link before unanimously voting in favor of a resolution to award a contract to the company, the Rockford Register Star reported. The resolution now goes to the entire County Board for a vote at a meeting July 27.

Tom Meriam, the company’s vice president of sales, said the tablets have education and safety benefits, including reducing inmate fights with each other and officers.

“The old saying goes, `A busy inmate is a controlled inmate,”’ he said. “If we can take an idle mind and make it busy, it’s in the best interest of the public and it’s in the best interest of the (corrections staff).”

The tablets would be provided to inmates free of charge. They’re enclosed in cases made of thick plastic, have phone capabilities and would replace the limited number of hard-wired phones that inmates currently share. Inmates would be able to use the tablets daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“The process of managing those calls will be very much symmetrical to how it works today,” GTL Executive Director Brian Peters said. “The fact that the phone apps are on the tablets does change the configuration of the rules of recording and monitoring capabilities that this facility has.”

The tablet proposal comes after the County Board voted in May to terminate its contract with Legacy Inmate Communications, the county’s provider of inmate telephone services The company charged inmates 55 cents a minute for local calls and 21 cents a minute for inter-state calls. Some of the money was shared with the county each month. But the company fell two months behind in payments totaling more than $100,000.

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