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You've Got Mail: The Promise of Cyber Communication in Prisons and the Need for Regulation

"As with most aspects of life, communications options for incarcerated people are in flux due to technological changes. For practical, political, and technical reasons, communications methods have evolved more slowly in prison than in the outside world, but change is nonetheless here. New technologies such as video visitation and electronic messaging have the potential to improve quality of life for incarcerated people and help correctional administrators effectively run secure facilities. Yet the promise of these new services is often tempered by a relentless focus on turning incarcerated people and their families into revenue streams for both private and public coffers. The lucrative market for prison-based telephone service has received substantial attention since 2012, when the Federal Communications Commission reinvigorated a long-stagnant regulatory proceeding concerning rates and business practices in the ICS market. Although the focus of the FCC proceeding has thus far been on telephone service, ICS is not just limited to voice calls - there are emerging technologies with which a growing number of prisons and jails are experimenting." This is a great report about the technology offenders can use to communicate with people outside a correctional facility and the problems associated with such use. Sections comprising this report are: communication options behind bars--traditional communication channels (i.e., in-person visiting, phone calls, postal communication, and electronic messaging-inbound-only systems, and two-way systems); an overview of the industry-- general ICS providers, commissary operators, financial service firms, specialty companies, procurement practices, revenue and fee structures, end-user pricing; overview of messaging services-benefits of electronic messaging, drawbacks, character limits, and diffusion of accountability; unknowns-protection of data, ownership of contents, and protection of attorney-client privilege; recommendations for the Federal Communications Commission, state legislatures and public utility commissions, and correctional administrators.