BY TOBY R. DAVIS #234179
PRIOR TO ENTERING the prison system back in the mid-90s, I was one of million subscribers who carried and used a small device known as a pager or beeper. Fast forward to today, these small gadgets have since became a thing of the past. Globally, there have been major technological advances that has given rise to iPhones, iPads, Apple watches and the World Wide Web (www) that include social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that have paved the way for a cyber-culture.
Due to MDOCs strict regulations and policies, inmates aren’t permitted to have cellphones or internet access. It was only a decade ago when MI prisoners were still watching black and white KTVs and listening to portable Walkman that played cassette tapes. In 2017, mainly due to these appliances becoming obsolete and certain parts no longer manufactured, the MDOC was compelled to compromise to now allow inmates to purchase 13″ flat screen color TVs and JP5 tablets but still without internet access as it is deemed a security threat. I was full of excitement when I called home and boasted about my new JP5 tablet that had various Apps for music, photo gallery, games, etc. It was my first time enlarging a family photo by using my thumb and index finger and swiping the screen. In 2021, we were allowed to purchase the new JP6 tablet which has a larger screen, more gigabits, and extended battery life.
According to Moore’s Law, technology doubles every eighteen months. With that being the case, the prison population remains far behind the times and deprived of access to information. Nonetheless, it appears that change is finally on the horizon! Just recently through a company called Securus (the same company who provides us with the new JP6 tablets) allowed us to download ten (10) FREE podcast videos. These podcast videos are called “Sec2nd Acts” with Andre Norman. While seated in front of a microphone, Andre gets up close and personal when he interview each guest to better understand how they turned their small setbacks into major comebacks and internal pain into eternal purpose. Having been moved by these poignant stories I began encouraging my fellow inmates to download them onto their own tablets to take advantage of the powerful information shared. Providing prisoners statewide with positive content like this I believe will only help to inspire individual change and emotional healing because even inside the darkest mind is a spark of light and it is only light that can surely illuminate darkness.
Allowing MDOC prisoners to have access to new technology will not only prompt new thought and can be used as a tool to help change the narrative of mass incarceration, but it will also humanize them. The main culprit that continues to fuel crime in every community is the lack of quality education, accessibility to opportunity and quite frankly… understanding. Understanding that no one is without flaws. No one is immune to making a bad decision. No one is unaffected by social pressure. And no one deserves to be deemed hopeless. For many lives have been shattered by deep, emotional trauma somehow at some stage in life.
Finally, I’d like to tip my hat to Securus for allowing prisoners (such as myself) to have access to “Sec2nd Acts” podcast videos. In order to invoke change in someone’s life, he/or she needs to be introduced to new ideals and new examples to make them believe that others things are possible. Because at the end of the day, it shouldn’t be about condemnation and punishment, but having understanding that it is wise to have a person reintegrate back into society better, not bitter. So, let’s move forward and imagine a better world that doesn’t recycle humans into better criminals, but one that’s centralized on fixing the problem, rather than simply managing it!