I Played With A Tablet Made For Prison Inmates

The JP4 Tablet is not an iPad. The iPad is sleek, sexy, and has a seemingly endless abundance of apps and features. To put it bluntly, the JP4 looks like an old-school Nintendo 64 cartridge, except that it has the capabilities to connect inmates with the outside world. Didn't know inmates had access to tablets? Well, they do and I got to play with one. 

It's strange fiddling around with a tablet that's meant to fill the tremendous void of boredom that prisoners face every single day. It's as bare bones as you can get, but I can totally understand how amazing it would be for an inmate—especially one who's never even seen a cell phone—to get handed a JP4.

There are 11 apps available within the eight-gigabyte tablet. No Facebook, no Instagram, no Tinder, no access to the outside world, except for a very limited email account. Each tablet is pre-loaded with the following: Sudoku and an FM Radio.

There's a calculator app and the option to change your background image...but those aren't exactly mind-blowing features—even when you've spent your life without an iPad.

An inmate can add music and movies through JPay Credits and JPay Stamps for emails, which are purchased by an inmate's family or friends and deposited to the prison commissary or spendable account. 

My JP4 was pre-loaded with some some of the good stuff. Under eBooks, I had the unoffensive classics like Leaves of Grass and A Tale of Two Cities. The music and movie sections were loaded with some questionable content—featuring the likes of bands like Hoobastank and—get this—The Shawshank Redemption. Shawshank?! That's like the Pelé of prison escape movies. 

It's a bit clunky and hard to get used to, but its purpose is to entertain a portion of the population who is stripped of the privilege of entertainment. To us, it's completely minimalistic; to them, it's a godsend. FYI, the body is completely translucent to keep prisoners from smuggling in contraband through the device. 


Jeremy Glass is the Vice editor for Supercompressor and once kidnapped the President's son, held him for ransom, and never got caught.