20 November, 2018

Life in Prison with a Tablet PC

On Thursday afternoon, three caseworkers entered the wing with a couple of large, nondescript cardboard boxes and an air of impatience. The JP5s tablets we ordered in October (first blogged about here this past February) had finally arrived!

"Go to your cells, gentlemen, and stand by your doors," an earnest woman in civilian clothes told us. "We'll call you by cell number. You'll come down here and sign for your tablet, then go back to your cell until the rest of the tablets have been passed out."

The occupants of 6D complied with a swiftness that I found amazing. Normally, getting prisoners corralled is a process requiring minutes on end, but this was different — our yearlong wait was at its end.

The caseworkers set up camp at a central table, spreading out packing slips and the kind of redundant paperwork that keeps bureaucrats in business. Noise in the wing died to stage whispers, with the occasional snort of muffled laughter, as the apparatchiks made ready.

Minutes passed. Then the woman squawked, "One-oh-one."

Flouting the directive, I left my door wide open but poured a glass of iced tea and sat back down with the book I'd been reading. Nietzsche made interesting company as the trio worked their way to 208. Only after Cell 206 went downstairs did I set my glass on the desk and stand as assigned.

The trade was more than fair: my signature, DOC number, and the date on a little square of paper, for a seven-inch Android device, charger, and pair of ear buds — all in a resealable plastic bag. The accompanying "Quick Start" information card was several steps down from the thoughts of the German philosopher, and didn't say a thing about charging the lithium-ion battery before syncing the tablet. I did so anyway, while the rest of the wing — more than fifty men, some of whom had taken the day off work specifically for this — impatiently queued for the
JPay kiosk. Owners' haste caused a few tablets to die mid-sync. It took less than twenty minutes for mine to reach 100% charge. So when my turn at the kiosk arrived, everything went off without a hitch.

What's it like, having my first handheld touch-screen device? It's definitely a novelty. I once blogged about being "
A Very Technical Boy," so I do have thoughts beyond the "This thing's so cool!" variety. Most of them come down to technical matters: the JP5s tablet I got for free last week is faster, more powerful , and sixty-four times more capacious than the first PC I built. (If that's not something to make a guy feel out-of-date....)

A friend sent me birthday money with the condition that I use it to buy music for what he calls my "wannabe iPad." It'd been many moons since I last acquired new tunes, so I responded eagerly: "Can do!" And I did. As I thumb-type this,
Savages' outstanding album Adore Life is propelling me like a cattle prod to the brain. Thanks again, John, so very much!

JPay's music selection — basically iTunes for prisoners — is big, even impressive. It makes the acquisitive music lover in me want all the things. I'm not alone in this. For years, Missouri prisoners have been limited to buying CDs from catalog vendors, which is about as limiting as you'd expect. It's especially bad if your tastes, like mine, range far afield of radio hits. The floodgates now have opened. Overheard conversations reveal that some other honor-dorm residents have already blown their entire month's budget, solely on music downloads. Do we blame poor impulse control, or freshly liberated zeal?

For sure, the mood around here has been jovial. Spontaneous dancing is not uncommon. It wierded me out, the first couple of times I witnessed it. Now I know better: the telltale white dots of ear buds confirm that a person's not experiencing a schizoid auditory-delusion, just bumping sick beats. A downcast gaze, likewise, no longer means that a person's in the dumps, only that he's engrossed in whatever's on his little LED screen.

I don't know how the scene might look in another month or so, after the tablets' newness wears off. There's already been a dropoff of kiosk use in the first forty-eight hours, as guys' digital wallets are emptied by media purchases. More settling could still occur. Of course, it could be that JPay is deliberately withholding services, waiting until the initial rush dies away before reinvigorating sales with movie downloads and game apps, both of which have been promised. Just alert me when there's a word processor with a print-on-demand feature — or at least when the e-reader app is available. Meanwhile, I'll be in my cell, luxuriating in fine sounds as I continue trying to write my way out of prison.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on the new tablet! Happy belated Thanksgiving Bryon!


Byron does not have Internet access. Pariahblog.com posts are sent from his cell by way of a secure service especially for prisoners' use. We do read him your comments, however, and he enjoys hearing your thoughts very much.