02 June, 2022

And the Apps Just Keep on Comin'

The Missouri DOC once lost a lawsuit and had to allow prisoners to receive books that others ordered for them. For a long time, that held the record for the best development during my imprisonment. Now, though, we have the JP6S tablet and its cloud-based interface, and I'm thinking this might be a new high-water mark for the incarcerated.

The transition wasn't the smoothest. Everyone that I communicate with via e-mail had to manually migrate their user account from JPay to its parent company, Securus Technologies. Going several days without service sucked. On the day the new tablets arrived last week, the only thing we could do with them was read the terms of service, play sudoku or Chompin' Chaz, do math on the calculator, and listen to FM radio. I did a lot of reading.

After setting everyone up with the basics, the music player app appeared and allowed me to download MP3s bought with my previous tablet. The crush to download songs and albums lasted a couple of days. Then e-mail and the photo gallery showed up. Then VideoGrams and the newsstand.

New apps have appeared on my tablet at a rate of about two per day – an e-book reader with access to roughly 100,000 titles from Google's Gutenberg Project, TV show and movie rental, Khan Academy videos, and links to a few hundred podcasts. Today, if all goes according to the plan that Securus reps described to us last Thursday, I should have the long-awaited phone app.

Aging lifers with faded tattoos, who've never so much as touched a cell phone, loiter in the wing, poking at seven-inch screens, watching videos and reading e-books and trying to figure out how to change their wallpaper. There's a new player on the yard, and its name is Wi-Fi. I'm interested in seeing its long-term effects.

Someone from the Marshall Project approached me with the same question, shortly after Missouri announced its "Media Incentive Matrix." This was the name given to the DOC's planned system of virtual rewards for good conduct. The Marshall Project wanted to hear about any changes I'd seen – in existing privileges, in the facility's visiting policy, or in my fellow prisoners – since the implementation of the Matrix. I told them I'd love to participate, but the Media Incentive Matrix hadn't been implemented yet. It never was.

Nearly two years later, the apps are here and there's not a peep about the Matrix. Like so many other great plans hatched by the DOC's revolving brain trust, I suspect digital incentives to be a forgotten notion. With drug overdoses and general disorder on the climb throughout the system, now might be a good time to revive it.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. It's so great that you guys have access to these things now. I hope it continues to be even more.


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.