The South Dakota Department of Corrections is making it impossible for prison inmates to have direct access to lawyers. Instead, they will have to take part in video calls to communicate with their attorneys.
No More Direct Access to Lawyers for South Dakota Inmates
Inmates will soon be introduced to computer tablets, which they will use to communicate with families and friends. The computers are provided free of charge to prison facilities by Global Tel Link (GTL).
GTL is a prisons telecoms company that provides prison calls to inmates. They will be providing computer tablets already pre-loaded with a legal research program which will have to be subscribed to. Prison inmates will be able to use LexisNexis legal search engine to access legal advice as well as play online games and listen to music.
There is however a problem: GTL has a terrible reputation of ripping off inmates with expensive prison calls.
Computer Tablets for Inmates Will Help DOC to Save More Money
Denny Kaemingk, Secretary for the South Dakota Department of Corrections, explained the cost implications of the new policy. According to him, it will cost $54,720 to subscribe to LexisNexis for the first year. The Department of Corrections has a budget of $135,400 in 2017 to pay lawyers to attend to the needs of inmates. They are now asking for $116,905,842 for 2017.
The bottom line is this: South Dakota DOC thinks replacing prison lawyers with prison iPads will help them save more money. It is estimated that the DOC will be saving between $80,000 and $221,000 by switching to computer tablets.
However, this makes it impossible for the thousands of inmates to have direct access to lawyers in order to help prepare for their own cases and trials.
Illiterates and Non-English Speakers May Have a Problem Using LexisNexis on iPads
Prison inmates in South Dakota will pay GTL to use computer tablets given out to each one. They will pay monthly subscriptions to:
- Make calls
- Send texts
- Listen to music
- Play Solitaire among other video games
Since lawyers and government agencies use LexisNexis as a legal research program, there is fear that uneducated prison inmates will not be able to use it fully:
“For some of the lower functioning inmates or less well-educated inmates, it’s a lot like to giving a book to someone who can’t read,” said Jason Adams, a South Dakota lawyer. “Giving you access to [LexisNexis] doesn’t teach you how to do legal research.”