Colorado Inmates’ Tablets Taken Away For Security Reasons Following Breach In Idaho

· Aug. 2, 2018, 11:24 pm
Photo: Colorado State Penitentiary II - APAP
Colorado State Penitentiary II, background, sits vacant inside a larger correctional complex, outside Canon City, pictured in October 2015. Built in 2010 to hold inmates in solitary confinement, it was mothballed two years later, as officials moved away from the practice.

New concerns about the security of computer tablets offered to inmates prompted Colorado authorities to take away all 15,000 of its tablets from state prisoners.

The confiscation comes a week after Idaho officials said 364 inmates exposed a glitch in their tablets that they used to apply a total of $225,000 in credits to their accounts, which they spent to send emails, stream music, play games, read books or take classes.

Officials in Colorado declined to discuss the security issue that led them to confiscate the tablets. Department of Corrections spokesman Mark Fairbairn said Thursday prisoners were not using the tablets to hack into computer systems or to take money.

"It had nothing to do with what happened in Idaho," Fairbairn said.

The corrections department plans to return the tablets to inmates after the security concerns are addressed, but it's not clear when that will be, Fairbairn said.

The Denver Post reported Wednesday that Colorado became the first state to provide inmates with tablets in 2016. Now, prison officials estimate that more than one in 10 correctional facilities across the U.S. offer tablets to their inmates.

Inmates pay for the tablet's services. For example, an email can cost anywhere from 25 to 50 cents.

The manufacturers include Reston, Virginia-based Global Tel-Link, which donated the tablets to the Colorado prison system, and Miramar, Florida-based JPay, which supplied the tablets for prisons in Idaho.

Fairbairn said he didn't know whether the security concern in Colorado affects other prison systems that use tablets from Global Tel-Link, or GTL.

"I would assume GTL would address those concerns with other states that have the same tablet," Fairbairn said. "I don't know that we've specifically reached out to a state agency."

Global Tel-Link spokeswoman Vinnie Mascarenhas said in a statement that the company is obligated to let the Colorado corrections department complete its inquiry before commenting.

"We can say that to the extent that there is an issue, we are confident it is limited to this instance," she said in the statement. "We hope that what doesn't get lost in this story is the transformational power of tablets to give inmates education, job training and ready communications to family and community."

In Idaho, corrections officials took disciplinary action against the inmates who received credits earlier in July. Those inmates could lose privileges and may be reclassified to a higher security risk level.

JPay has suspended the ability of the inmates to download music and games until they re-pay JPay. The inmates can still send and receive emails.

You care.

You want to know what is really going on these days, especially in Colorado. We can help you keep up.  The Lookout is a free, daily email newsletter with news and happenings from all over Colorado. Sign up here and we will see you in the morning!