Beta program giving smartphones to Tulsa inmates

Posted at 9:25 PM, Feb 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-03 23:45:23-05

A controversial program to provide Tulsa County jail inmates with smartphones is currently in the beta testing phase, according to acting sheriff Michelle Robinette.

County documents show the plan was part of the same 2014 agreement with vendor Correct Solutions, which updated the jail's inmate calling system.

"They order movies. They can order books. They can order music," Robinette said.

Robinette said the devices don't have access to the internet but do make calls, which jail staff can monitor. She said the calls made are not different than ones inmates can currently make on landline phones. They operate with outgoing collect calls and are recorded by the jail.

"The question was asked, 'Won't they make calls related to criminal activity?' They do that now. It's all recorded," Robinette said.

Activist group We the People called a press conference Wednesday expressing outrage at handing out the devices to inmates. They said it's all in the name of gaining revenue. The devices are available at a cost to the inmates through the jail's commissary.

"They are preying on the poorest of the poor," said Laurie Phillips, attorney with We the People.

"The inmates are a commodity. Everything that happens in that jail is all about making money," said Marq Lewis, We the People organizer.

Robinette said the smartphones will help keep inmates out of trouble. She acknowledges they will also help bring in more revenue to the cash-strapped jail.

"It occupies the inmates time, so that they're not causing issues when they're bored," she said.

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