The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has partnered with, the California Department of Technology (CDT), to enter into a contract with Global Tel*Link Corporation (GTL) to enhance communications, technology access, and family connections for the incarcerated population in state prisons.
The contract aims to increase access to new and existing services and innovative rehabilitative opportunities. This six-year contract covers many aspects of communications technology, including expanding access to tablets and kiosks for the entire incarcerated population and greatly reducing phone rates.
The enhanced communication project aims to strengthen the bonds between the incarcerated population with their families and communities. Jails and prisons across the US are seeing the benefits of utilizing electronic devices as they provide incarcerated individuals access to rehabilitative program content, important departmental updates, and positive leisure-time activities, such as knowledge-based games and books. These devices also allow these activities to be tracked and monitored for safety and security.
Tablets will be provided at no cost to families or incarcerated people, although certain premium features, such as streaming music services, may incur charges. New tablet services will be funded through the incarcerated individual’s Trust Fund. Family and friends can make deposits to Trust Fund accounts through ConnectNetwork, GTL’s one-stop resource for assisting family and friends in connecting and communicating with their incarcerated loved ones. To learn more about ConnectNetwork and how to get started, please visit: web.connectnetwork.com/get-started-cdcr.
Why is the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) implementing a statewide tablet program?
CDCR places great emphasis on maintaining family and community ties during incarceration. Visitation, telephone calls, and letters are a vital way for incarcerated individuals to remain connected to their communities. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the suspension of in-person visiting, but CDCR was able to implement video visiting and increased access to telephone calls, including partnering with GTL to provide two days of free telephone calls each month.
Even prior to the pandemic, CDCR was working to implement increased technology and communication, including implementing a pilot program at five institutions in 2018 that provided tablets and secure email access to eligible individuals. Participants in this program and their loved ones have reported they appreciate the ability to remain connected, in addition to the positive benefits of having in-cell access to eBooks, legal materials, and entertainment.
About 90,000 people are incarcerated in California’s 35 adult prisons. CDCR is committed to increasing access to informational and rehabilitative materials, in addition to positive activities such as listening to music and recreational reading.
Who will get a tablet?
GTL is responsible for providing a tablet to every person incarcerated in CDCR’s adult institutions. Granting and/or denying access to any services related to the tablets will be determined in accordance with CDCR’s regulations regarding contraband and non-confidential correspondence (California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 15, Sections 3006 Contraband or 3135 Disturbing or Offensive Correspondence). For example, someone temporarily moved to restricted housing for a rules violation may lose access to some functionality until they earn privileges back. These criteria will also be updated as they are finalized.
It is expected that tablets will be distributed on a phased basis beginning in mid-May 2021. The tablets will first be provided to people incarcerated at Valley State Prison (VSP) in Chowchilla, which is implementing California’s first Youth Offender Rehabilitative Community (YORC). The YORC initiative aims to assist people who began their incarceration under the age of 25 by establishing an environment more akin to a college campus than a correctional institution, with increased access to educational, therapeutic and vocational opportunities. In addition to VSP, YORCs are designed to cluster such individuals together at select adult institutions to encourage positive programming and provide impactful programming targeted to their specific needs, including peer mentoring and cognitive behavioral interventions.
The timeline for distribution of tablets to all adult institutions and fire camps is being established by CDCR’s Enterprise Information Services (EIS) division. The timeline will be updated regularly. It is expected that every adult institution will have tablets by the end of 2021, and all fire camps will have tablets by the end of March 2022.
My loved one had a tablet as part of the pilot. What happens to it now?
Individuals who purchased a tablet may have the vendor who provided it unlock it, and then they may mail it to their family or friends. They will receive a new tablet issued by CDCR. For those who were provided a tablet by CDCR, the content will be downloaded to a flash drive which may then be mailed home.
What is the cost of this contract?
This six-year contract with GTL is implemented at no cost to CDCR or the taxpayers of California. GTL is responsible for providing the tablets, infrastructure, technical support and technology updates throughout the length of the contract. Many features of the tablets are free, including library eBooks, law library access and rehabilitative content. Individuals may choose to purchase certain services, such as streaming approved movies, games, or music services.
Have other correctional systems implemented tablet programs?
Technology in correctional settings in the United States has advanced greatly. At least 30 states have implemented similar tablet programs to provide secure access to rehabilitative program content, email, and entertainment. While offerings vary from state to state, correctional officials report benefits of tablet usage, not least of which is the ability to monitor use and quickly address security concerns. In addition, music, movies, games and recreational books are widely used as a means of entertainment for incarcerated individuals. Moving to tablet usage increases the options available for such outlets, and allows people in prison to learn about technology they may not have ever experienced.
Do the tablets allow video?
Yes. Users may receive, but not send, video clips from approved contacts. Videos will be reviewed by institutional staff for safety and security concerns. Video calls are also available on the tablets. Scheduling and eligibility criteria for using the tablets for video calls are in development and will be updated as more information is available. At this time, the free Webex video visiting system remains in place. However, the tablets will be available for those who would like to make video calls in a different location, or to offset limited video visiting station availability in visiting rooms. Video calls may only be made when tablets are docked in kiosks that will be installed near telephone areas in the institutions. Video calls will cost 20 cents per minute.
Are telephone rates being reduced statewide?
In addition to tablets, this contract with GTL greatly reduces the cost for telephone calls, a priority of CDCR to increase access to communication with loved ones. It is expected the new rates will be implemented by March 19, 2021. In addition, every incarcerated person will be allotted 15 minutes of free telephone calls and 15 minutes of free video calls every two weeks. These minutes do not have to be used at the same time, and will reset every 14 days. These minutes may not be banked.
Telephone calls nationwide will cost 2.5 cents per minute, a reduction of 5.1 cents per minute for local calls (same area code) and calls within California, and a reduction of 18.5 cents per minute for calls outside of California. A 15-minute call anywhere in the US will now cost 37.5 cents. International telephone calls will now cost 7 cents per minute, a reduction of 68 cents per minute. CDCR does not receive commission for telephone calls or any other services that require a fee from users.
The overall reduction in prices represents the best value for both the state and the friends and family of incarcerated loved ones.
How do individuals use the tablets?
Instructions for the tablets will be sent to the Warden and appropriate staff members at every institution. Staff will be trained on how to use and monitor the tablets and will teach users how to access materials. In addition, instructional videos will play on institutional television and printed instructions will be posted in each housing unit.
Are the tablets secure?
Yes. Each tablet is encrypted and its contents are monitored by institutional staff, who can immediately investigate any improper usage. The tablets are not web browsers and do not have internet access. Users may only download approved programs and content using kiosks located in housing units. CDCR can monitor, record, and store communications. Emails and video clips will be reviewed and will not be sent to the user if they contain unauthorized content.
Authorized staff will have the ability to suspend or disable any of the services for any user or group of users at any time.
What materials are available on the tablets?
Incarcerated people will have the ability to securely send and receive email, with incoming and outgoing messages closely monitored for inappropriate or illegal content. Additionally, users may send and receive pre-approved images, stickers, and e-cards, and can receive short video clips from family and friends (videos may not be sent, only received). Incarcerated individuals who are indigent ($25 or less in trust account for 30 consecutive days) will receive five free message credits per week.
In addition, they will be able to download departmental information such as Title 15 and the Department Operations Manual, access legal library resources, and receive important department updates in real-time. Divisions throughout CDCR can load important information on the tablets related to victim restitution, the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and other important notices such as COVID-19 updates or regulation changes. Individuals may use their tablets to request health care services or file an appeal or grievance.
Rehabilitative program providers may also submit program materials for inclusion on the tablets, both to provide remote learning opportunities during the pandemic and to supplement in-person programs once they resume.
A library of free eBooks and games is available, as well as materials for purchase. For a monthly subscription fee ($1.99-$7.99), users can stream movies and music, and FM radio is available for no cost. Podcasts, audio books, sports, streaming media, and internet radio are also available for subscriptions ranging from 75 cents to $5.49 monthly.
Can individuals with disabilities use the tablets?
Communication services must be provided to accommodate visually impaired individuals. Assistive Technology will be used to ensure visually impaired individuals are afforded reasonable accommodation to the communication services being provided. Video Relay Service/American Sign Language-Video Calling Services (VRS/ASL-VCS) will be provided to accommodate hearing-impaired individuals.
|Email/Secure Messaging (Inbound and Outbound)||$0.05 per 2,000 characters|
|Inbound Electronic Correspondence Services||$0.05 per 2,000 characters|
|Video Gram||$0.05 (1 stamp)|
|E-Cards||$0.05 (1 stamp)|
|MP3 Songs||Premium Music – $7.99/month|
Streaming Internet Radio (no playlists, caching, or download) – $5.49/month
|Print Services||$0.05 (black and white)|
|Premium Audio Books||$5.49/month|
Staff who led the effort to bring tablets to CDCR statewide share their insights on this important program in this Inside CDCR Q&A.
In addition to the tablet program, the GTL contract greatly reduces telephone rates for all incarcerated adults and their loved ones.
Click here for information.
*Cost for 15-minute phone call
|Year||Local (same area code)||InterLATA (within California)||Interstate (within US)||International|
|Adult: $3.75 collect; $3.15 pre-paid|
Staying connected to family and loved ones is vital to individual success during and after incarceration. These connections keep people updated on family activities, assist with reentry planning, and help people stay motivated to follow a positive path. As Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), I am pleased to announce that not only is California implementing new technology to increase communication for those in our care, we are also implementing greatly reduced rates for telephone calls nationwide.
CDCR has entered a contract with Global Tel*Link (GTL) to expand upon the five-prison tablet program implemented in 2018. Beginning in mid-May, we will begin to provide tablets in every adult institution and fire camp, starting with Valley State Prison. Jails and prisons across the US are seeing the benefits of electronic devices, as they provide incarcerated individuals access to educational content, rehabilitative programs, and positive leisure-time activities, such as knowledge-based games and books. These devices also allow for activities to be tracked and monitored for safety and security.
These tablets are provided at no cost to families or incarcerated people, although certain premium features, such as streaming music services, may incur charges. The tablets may be used for rehabilitative programs, recreational reading, games and entertainment, to access law library materials, and to obtain vital departmental services such as Title 15 information, file grievances, and receive updates in real time. This technology also allows people to send and receive secure emails, and to receive (but not send) photos and short video clips from loved ones. Incarcerated individuals who are indigent ($25 or less in trust account for 30 consecutive days) will receive five free message credits per week.
Video calls are also available on the tablets. Scheduling and eligibility criteria for using the tablets for video calls are in development and will be updated as more information is available. At this time, the free Webex video visiting system remains in place. However, the tablets will be available for those who would like to make video calls in a different location, or to offset limited video visiting station availability in visiting rooms. Video calls will cost 20 cents per minute.
The rollout timeline and eligibility criteria are in development and will be updated regularly. It is expected that every adult institution will have tablets by the end of 2021, and all fire camps will have tablets by the end of March 2022. Access will be determined in accordance with existing regulations regarding contraband and correspondence.
GTL and CDCR are also easing the burden on loved ones who bear the cost of telephone calls. Beginning March 19, calls nationwide will now cost 2.5 cents per minute, a reduction of 5.1 cents per minute for local calls (same area code) and calls within California, and a reduction of 18.5 cents per minute for calls outside of California. This amounts to 37.5 cents for a 15-minute call anywhere in the US. In 2007, that same 15-minute local call would have cost $17.30.
Each incarcerated person will receive 15 minutes of free phone calls and 15 minutes of free video calls every two weeks. To support implementation of the free calls, incarcerated people will be given a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to make calls. Incarcerated individuals began setting up their PINs at Valley State Prison starting Feb. 25, and will be activated at all institutions by March 18. Until PINs are implemented, GTL and CDCR will continue to offer two free calling days per month.
As CDCR Secretary, I am deeply committed to implementing programs and procedures that set the people in our care up for success, and this initiative is one part of that important work. Thank you for all you do to support those incarcerated in California. I urge you to peruse this webpage to learn more about the tablets and phone rates, and to reach out to the Statewide Inmate Family Council or Office of External Affairs should you have any questions.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation