America is a country built on several industrial complexes, of which “military” is the most famous. But the prison system down there is also a capitalist shitshow. And charging inmates to exist within the system is increasingly part of the monetization strategy, including accessing ereaders from the library. Can you still call it a library when people are charged (outside of taxes) to use it? (Please excuse USA Today link–I’ll try to not let it happen again lest we all get dumber. But it’s great that their readers are forced to pass their eyes over this as they turn the pages for Superbowl Halftime shots of JLo and Shakira.)
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. The only beneficiary, aside from Global Tel Link, is West Virginia, which receives 5% of the profits.
GTL isn’t alone in profiting off of prisoners. Exploitation of prisoners for profit is cropping up more and more across the criminal justice landscape.