Internet in prisons

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Internet use in prisons allows inmates to communicate with the outside. Much like the use of telephones in prisons, the use of the internet under supervision, for various purposes, is approved in 49 U.S. correctional systems and five Canadian provinces. Each of the reporting U.S. systems, except Hawaii, Iowa, Nebraska and Nevada, use computers to employ inmate educational programs, as do all five reporting provinces in Canada. There are 36 reporting U.S. systems to handle inmate health issues via telemedicine.[1] However much like the use of mobile phones in prison, internet access without supervision, via a smartphone, is banned for all inmates.[2]

Internet access in prisons globally[edit]


Prisoner access to computer facilities and Internet resources varies across jurisdictions in Australia. In some states personal computer capable devices are permitted for use in cells, managed Internet access is provided in some,[3] while in other states all existing devices are withdrawn. The use of computers is generally for study, legal purposes, and managed reintegration. The rationale for this policy is to ensure that all prisoners in need of access to computer for educational or legal purposes are not to be disadvantaged. The policy reduces and effectively manages the risks associated with prisoner access to computers in cells.[4]


In Canada, inmates are not allowed internet access.[5]


In Norway, all prisoners have access to the internet, even in their cells. Firewalls have been set up to ensure security. They believe that it helps in their education, and also lets them know they are still connected to the world.[6]


In the Philippines, prisoners are allowed to surf the Internet while closely supervised.[7]


In Romania, a survey was conducted in 2008 to assess the situation on availability of IT services to inmates in prisons. A response was received from 14 out of the 36 prisons in the country. Of the 14, 7 prisons had no computer access to inmates, 5 prisons had computers from different donations, 1 prison stated they had 5 computers with internet access but are for staff use only. The 6 prisons that had computer access sometimes used it for recreational purposes, however some do have organized training courses to teach inmates computer operating. Connection to the internet is forbidden to inmates in all prisons however.[8]

United States[edit]

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, has put into place the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS) on February 19, 2009. This allows inmates access to electronic messaging through e-mails. The message must be text only, and must be conducted in a secure manner between inmate and the public. Messages are subject to monitoring. Currently all institutions operated by the Bureau of Prisons have TRULINCS. However outside of the TRULINCS program, nearly all states prohibit Internet use by inmates, limiting technology based access to educational opportunities.[9]


In Ukraine inmates in correctional facilities have recently formally been allowed to use the Internet connection and to use cellphones without any restrictions.[10] The law has allowed prisoners using cellphones connection and the Internet connection but the recently changed State Penitentiary Service Head S.Starenkiy de facto rewrote the law by a regulation telling inmates are not actually allowed to use cellphones if there are usual phones in prisons available. Also the law hasn't precised the right to possess electronic devises that has become a cornerstone argument for banning the access by administrative bureaucracy. Likewise, the Internet access is only allowed in defined by prison administration places and under its control. No social networks,e-mail service, pornosites etc. can be consulted. Consequently, unrestricted access on the law level has been diminished by the administrative regulation.[11] Ukrainian human rights activists blamed such a step regarding status quo of existing cellphones brought illegally by prisons staff to inmates who pay for this kind of service.[12] Indeed, corruption issues were supposed to be addressed by the law adopted in order to abolish a rule prohibiting cellphones and the Internet access that anyway has not worked due to the disobedience by both prisoners and the penitentiary staff.

Rehabilitating purposes[edit]

A European conference on Prison Education and Training was held in February 2010. Over 200 delegates from across Europe was in attendance. It was suggested to be widely accepted that prisons are damaging to the inmates, and therefore a method to decrease the potential damage is to provide the inmates an education during their incarceration. This would eventually contribute to the inmate’s successful reentry into society.[13] The internet is a convenient study tool, and if used correctly would contribute to the inmante’s studies.

In Norway, the educational and sentence act allows all inmates in Norway to have a legal right to education. The internet is described as digital tool, and has been integrated into the curriculum.[14] This allows the prison to enact a structured and meaningful path for rehabilitation.

Due to the reliance on the internet in society, newly sentenced inmates have already developed a dependency on the internet. The restriction of the internet in the inmate’s daily lives would constitute a major setback in their daily functionings.[15] The sudden removal of a major part in their lives would debilitate their motivation for rehabilitation. Inmates sentences to a longer duration would become technologically impaired when released into a society that is increasingly becoming dependent on the internet. The institution needs to prepare the inmate for reintroduction into the outside society, and doing so necessitates the familiarity with the internet.

Controversy surrounding inmate access to Internet[edit]

Allowing access to the internet for inmates is a topic with much debate. The argument for the permittance of use is largely for rehabilitation, and/or providing an environment that encourages rehabilitation. However, in the United States, security measures and state statues in both public and private correctional institutions are significant barriers in expanding the use of the Internet to support the delivery of postsecondary education.[9] Many inmates experience a lack of access to computer equipment and security routines in prisons interfere with their education.

Inmates can also use the internet for other, illegal purposes. It has been recorded that through smuggling smart phones, inmates have called up phone directories, maps, and photographs for criminal activities. This is because as our society becomes increasingly internet-dependent, gang violence and drug trafficking is being conducted through the internet, meaning inmates are able to keep up with criminal activities even while being incarcerated.[2] In the United States, cell phone smuggling into prisons has been an increasing problem.

In 2010, the Federal Bureau of Prisons workers confiscated 1,188 mobile devices.[2] Most of the smuggled cell phones have access to the internet, and inmates are able to connect without monitoring from guards. In addition to conducting criminal activities, inmates have used social service sites, such as Facebook, to taunt their victims.[16]


  1. ^ "Computer use for/by inmates". Corrections Compendium 34 (2): 24–31. Summer 2009. Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  2. ^ a b c Kim Severson, Robbie Brown, January 2, 2011, Outlawed, Cellphones Are Thriving in Prisons, The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-06-10
  3. ^ Alexander Maconochie Centre, August 2010 [1]. Retrieved 2013-11-08
  4. ^ Government of Western Australia, Department of Corrective Services, June 25, 2010 [2]. Retrieved 2013-06-10
  5. ^ Georgie Binks. Minimum security is much different in Canada than the U.S. CBC News. March 6, 2009. [3]. Retrieved 2013-06-10
  6. ^ Erwin James. What are prisons in Norway really like?. The Guardian. November 14, 2008.[4]. Retrieved 2013-06-10
  7. ^ Prison policies: Gilding the cage - The Economist
  8. ^ AxA Consulting. Current ICT Provisions in Romanian Prisons. April 2008.[5]. Retrieved 2013-06-10
  9. ^ a b Laura E. Gorgol, Brian A. Sponsler. Unlocking Potential: Results of a National Survey of Postsecondary Education in State Prisons. Unstitue for Higher Education Policy May 2011.[6]. Retrieved 2013-06-10
  10. ^ The Law of Ukraine On the amendments to the Criminal Executive Code Concerning the Adaptation of Inmates' Legal Status to the European Standards (08.04.2012)
  11. ^ Закон України "Про внесення змін до Кримінально-виконавчого кодексу України щодо адаптації правового статусу засудженого до європейських стандартів": перші кроки на шляху реалізації
  12. ^ Аналіз деяких аспектів змін до Кримінально-виконавчого кодексу
  13. ^ Prison Education and Training in Europe - A Review. Directorate General for Education and Culture, European Commission. [7]. Retrieved 2013-06-10
  14. ^ Bent D. Hansen, Paal C. Breivik. Internet for inmates in Norwegian prisons. County Governor of Hordaland. [8]. Retrieved 2013-06-10
  15. ^ Kelemen. How the internet would change learning in prison. Inside Time.[9]. Retrieved 2013-06-10
  16. ^ Jack Doyle. "Prisoners taunting victims on Facebook." Daily Mail. January 30, 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-10