Tablets and Telephone Calls
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?
It is important to maintain relationships during incarceration. Visits, calls, and letters are a great way to stay connected. Even before COVID-19, CDCR was working to improve technology and communication, including a pilot program at five prisons in 2018 that provided tablets and secure email access to eligible people. People in this program and their loved ones have reported they appreciated the ability to stay connected, in addition to having in-cell access to eBooks, legal materials, and entertainment.
Who will get a tablet?
GTL will provide an Inspire tablet for every person incarcerated in CDCR’s adult institutions. These tablets are designed for use in correctional settings. Granting or denying access to any tablet services will be in accordance with CDCR’s regulations (California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 15, Sections 3006 Contraband or 3135 Disturbing or Offensive Correspondence). Eligibility criteria are being created, including how tablets will be used in restricted housing. Tablets may be used in cells/dormitories. Institutions will develop site-specific rules as the tablets are rolled out.
Tablets began being distributed on a phased basis beginning in August 2021 at Valley State Prison (VSP) in Chowchilla, which is home to California’s first Youth Offender Rehabilitative Community (YORC). The tablets are on track to be distributed to every institution and conservation (fire) camp by the end of 2022. By the end of 2021, CDCR expects it will also distribute tablets to Ironwood State Prison; Chuckawalla Valley State Prison; Mule Creek State Prison; and California State Prison, Solano.
The timeline for distribution of tablets to all adult institutions and fire camps is being established with the vendor and CDCR’s Enterprise Information Services (EIS) division. The timeline will be updated regularly.
My loved one had a tablet as part of the pilot. What happens to it now?
If your loved one was provided a tablet by CDCR, it will be returned to CDCR when the GTL tablets are activated at their institution. People who purchased a tablet may contact the vendor to request it be unlocked, and then they may mail it to their family or friends. In either case, a one-time transfer of photos will be made from the pilot tablet to the GTL tablet when the pilot tablets are collected.
What is included in this contract?
This six-year contract is with GlobalTel Link (GTL), who is responsible for providing all tablets, infrastructure, technical support and technology updates. Many features are free to users, including library eBooks, law library materials and rehabilitative content. Users may purchase some services, such as approved movies, games, or music.
Have other correctional systems implemented tablet programs?
Technology in prisons and jails in the United States has advanced greatly. At least 30 states have started similar tablet programs to provide secure access to rehabilitative programs, email, and entertainment. Officials report many benefits, including the ability to monitor use and quickly address security concerns. In addition, music, movies, games and recreational books are widely enjoyed by incarcerated people. Tablets also allow 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 at most institutions. However, tablets will be available for those who would like to make video calls in a different location, or to offset limited video visiting availability in visiting rooms. Video calls will cost 20 cents per minute.
How else is CDCR expanding connections to family and community?
In addition to tablets, this contract greatly lowers the cost for telephone calls, a priority of CDCR to increase access to communication with loved ones. The new rates were implemented in March 2021. Every incarcerated person is also given 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.
The Governor’s 2021-22 Budget made available $12 million to expand communications services statewide. By the end of September 2021, every incarcerated person will receive 75 minutes of free telephone calls every two weeks using either the institutional phones or the tablets when available. These minutes will reset every two weeks and will not roll over. Fifteen minutes are provided by GTL, while the additional 60 are provided by CDCR as part of its commitment to increasing connection with loved ones and communities.
Additionally, people with GTL tablets will be able to send 20 free electronic messages each week. Those with tablets in the pilot program will be able to send 15 free messages each week, while users considered indigent ($25 or less in trust account for 30 consecutive days) will be able to send an additional five.
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, how-to videos will play on institutional television and 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 in housing units. CDCR can monitor, record, and store communications. Emails will be reviewed by GTL for inappropriate content, and staff will be alerted to any content for further review before it is sent. All photos and videos are reviewed, which may result in a short delay. Authorized staff will have the ability to turn off any of the services for any user or group of users at any time if there are safety or security concerns.
What materials are available on the tablets?
Users will have the ability to securely send and receive email, with incoming and outgoing messages closely monitored. 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). People who meet the definition of “indigent” ($25 or less in trust account for 30 consecutive days) will receive five free message credits per week.
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. Incarcerated users can transfer money from their trust account to a GTL “Unified Wallet” account, which allows users to fund both phone and tablet time. Friends and family can also add funds to this account. In addition, users will be able to download important CDCR and institution information.
Institutions will develop their own schedules and time limits for kiosk use as the tablets are rolled out. Content is provided over a secure wireless network. Connecting to the kiosk is not needed, as it is at pilot sites.
Can individuals with disabilities use the tablets?
Communication services will be provided to accommodate visually impaired users. Video Relay Service/American Sign Language-Video Calling Services (VRS/ASL-VCS) will be provided to accommodate hearing-impaired people.
What is the cost of emails and video calls?
Every incarcerated individual will receive 15 minutes of telephone calls and video calls every two weeks. Additional video calls will cost 20 cents per minute.
|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