Last year, West Virginia contracted with a company, Global Tel Link (GTL), to provide free tablets to prisoners. These kinds of initiatives are rapidly becoming more popular, as states grapple with the legacy of four decades of tough-on-crime policies and renewed public calls for more rehabilitative prisons.
And it sounds great. Until inmates realize the company charges users every time they use the tablets, including 25 cents a page for emails and 3 cents a minute to read e-books. By that calculation, most inmates would end up paying about $15 for each novel or autobiography they attempt to read. To people who have little to no money, that’s not a benefit. That’s exploitation.
But a charge to read is especially egregious. The great resource in prison is time: the time to think and improve. The best way for prisoners to fill that time is to read. Reading opens up access to instruction across any subject. It teaches job skills. It reminds those left behind that a world exists beyond the cage.
I would know: It happened that way for me. At 18, I was sentenced to life in prison with little hope of parole. For two years, I was depressed and hopeless, with no purpose or goals. Then a fellow lifer introduced me to books. I started reading every day: history, self-help, newspapers, textbooks, biographies. Reading taught me not only could I make the world a better place, but how to make it a better place: by getting others to read, too.
USA Today Op/Ed: “Books Helped Me Get Through a Life Sentence. Exploitative Fees Rob Others of Benefit.”
Filed by February 4, 2020on