Should Convicts HAVE Access to the Internet?

Simple question…but, no clear answer.
PRO: prisoners need to rehabilitate themselves. Acces to the Internet means education, the chance to learn a new skill, make contacts for future jobs after prison.
Also, human contatc-a prisoner can make friends and improve his/her social skills.
CON: Internet access will allow cons to scam people out of money, and these people may well become a danger to people they comntact on the web.
So I ask you…what’s your take on this? Don’t laugh-several prisoner -advocacy groups are pressing for this!

I can see it now:

Person 1: A/S/L?
Person 2: 33/M/Attica, and I like forced sex

I can see this kind of going both ways. I don’t think they should have unlimited access. Limited e-mail would’nt do much harm. They can get computer skills without the Internet, they can get educated by reading books, they can stay on top of current events by reading the newspaper. I think limited e-mail is about all I am in favor of. And more so for the relatives and friends of the inmates than the inmates themselves, ease of communication, take some of the strain of astronomical phone bills from collect calls off.


Jailers have the right to check everything that an inmate reads or has in his (or her) posession. Letters, books and magazines are looked at by most jails.

To do the same online would be impractical to implement and wind up costing us a lot more as tax-payers.

When you are in jail, you lose your freedom. As much as I hate to invoke a Microsoft ad campaign, a prisoner should not be able to ask “Where do you want to go today?” because they lost that right.

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Absolutely Satan

They have education courses to use computors but most cons see it either as an easy toss off rather than work or they are working out if there is any way they can use computors to assist them in their offences or to learn enough to know what is worth stealing.

I personally say yes. I think one of the goals of our prison system should be rehabilitation if possible, and that prisoners should be able to educate themselves and/or gain computer skills if they can.

I do not argue for unrestricted internet access. I would propose the following:
a) e-mail addresses that clearly show that the person is an inmate at a correctional facility (e.g.
b) web servers that only allow access to a limited range of sites. The server would only allow you to browse certain sites (the reverse of some “net nannies” that try to keep track of sites to interdict): for example,, an online school, the Straight Dope (of course!), etc…
c) Especially prisoners should be encouraged to join online classes, get a degree over the internet if such a program is possible, etc…

I don’t think so!
Can you imagine pedophiles getting online access? Net Nannies are pathetic…
I’m sorry, but the 'Net isn’t a right, it’s a priviledge.

You know, any good administrator can easily limit internet access to just a few pre-selected sites (like a correspondence school). Hell, they don’t get near CNN or The Straightdope, if you don’t want them to go there.

If there is a legitimate reason for a prisoner to be on the web, fine. They don’t have to have free access though.

That would be unthinkable! Could you imagine what kind of things would happen? Let’s hope that that never, ever happens. :wink:

D’oh! I really put my foot in there, didn’t I?

Well, what I meant was, even MORE pedophiles on the net…on our tax dollars…

It seems like most of your main arguments FOR internet access is to educate prisoners and allow them to gain computer skills.
People, you do not need the internet to learn computer skills. Nor do you need it to learn other things. There are these great inventions called books, which they are allowed already.
I propose a compromise. Absolutely NO internet access. But they could have a few computers with a large encyclopedia database and other cd-roms to search for information on.
Also, if you really needed to teach them to uses IE, the computer could be set up to work offline and browse through the cd-roms like they were webpages.
Giving convicts internet access is dangerous, unecessary and extremely stupid. Also, like was said earlier, it would be more expensive and too difficult to sensor all the incoming and outgoing email.

From a practical point of view, we simply do not have the technical expertise in the prison service to limit access and monitor it in the way you propose.

To spend tax monies to recruit suitable staff or train the existing would be hard to justify when the greatest educational need of prisoners are simply to be able to read, write and perform basic maths.

It is better to spend the money where it will work hardest and this has usually been in employment training such as catering, construction and related trades, some engineering like motor mechanics and machine shop, and farmwork.

These are fields where there is often a high turnover of staff and where a person with a criminal record might gain an employment foothold.

In computor related industries the requirements by employers are way beyond the abilities of just about all inmates.
Higher trade skills such as electronics, computors, toolmakers etc are not taught as there the inmate will generally not be available long enough.

Exactly! I personally feel that jail is already too much of a picnic anyway. Why allow criminals more luxuries? I know, I know…I’ve never been to jail and I have no clue what it is like. I’m sure it’s no bowl of cherries. But still, I can’t help feeling sometimes like we are coddling them. I do agree that they should be given the opportunity to educate and better themselves, and that includes computer skills. Bear’s suggestions are excellent. I do NOT think they should be allowed entertainment, like watching junk t.v. Give them newspapers, give them encyclopedias but don’t give them People magazine.

They are being punished, and I think somewhere in the civil rights campaign we forgot that.

I believe that once they made the decision to commit a crime that they gave up the luxury of outside benefits. If education is their excuse for having access then the alternative to that would be books. We pay enough in taxes to house these people we give them more than they deserve now, why pay for a computer for them to play with. Our children need the computers for their education. I feel that they gave up their right when they chose to be a menice to society.

Speaking as a corrections professional, my response is: “Dear God in Heaven, NO!”

I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all, but unless you’ve had the dubious pleasure of working with convicts, you cannot imagine the ingenuity they are capable of when it comes to manipulating a system for their own benefit. As I’m sure you’ll all agree, the internet is a powerful tool, and these are people who can’t be trusted with screwdrivers.

Can someone tell me the laws as to what information a prisoner is not allowed to have (I’d imagine things relevent to his or her crime, but what else is included?)

I’d also like to know the rules as to what a prisoner can publish. We forget that the Internet is a two way street, both provided access to information and publishing it. I like the idea of prisoners being able to run web pages. I think that it is important for even the worst and most hated person to be able to express him or herself publicly. I like that the Internet allows people to do that at little to no cost. I think that it would be a good check on the system for prisoners to publish their stories about their experiences in prison. It might help act as a detterent as well.

I know, I know, some racist in jail is going to use the internet to broadcast their hate to other people. Whether or not objectionable things should be on the internet is another argument. More pertinent is wether prisoners as a group of people should be denied the right to publish their views on the Internet, regardless of what (within legal limits) their views may be.

And is it different if a prisoner writes down the code for a web page on a piece of paper and mails it to a friend to be published?

I personally think that the internet is a great tool for provideing a voice to the voiceless, includeding prisoners. I think that prisoners should be able to maintain web sites, and that they should be treated like outgoing mail.

Internet access as entertainment is a bad idea. But there may be some good use of the internet in prison.

Sometimes prisoners handle their own appeals and appeals for other inmates. The internet could be the only way to gather up to date info on court decisions. And there certainly isn’t a usable law library in the pen. ( is it possible to access a law database without internet connection?)

It could also be used to the gain public support and resources to fight a wrongful conviction.

Everyone always forgets the punishment part of prison. I say no to internet, and no to books that don’t teach anything, no weights either. It’s getting silly and we really need to have some reform on it.

The jailcam!

Man, thats freakish!