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Thursday, February 5, 2015

ICARE: An Innovative Educational Program For Virginia Inmates

The following, in his own words, is the brainchild of Charles Zellers, Sr., one of the inmates with whom I correspond at the Buckingham Correctional Center at Dillwyn, Virginia: 


I urge the Virginia Department of Corrections, technology companies and others to adopt and implement a computerized education program for prison inmates I have provisionally dubbed "ICARE" (Inmate Computer Assisted Rehabilitation through Education).

ICARE is based on the use of tablet computers with educational software and Access, Excel, Outlook, Paint, Powerpoint, Publisher and Word, which would be downloaded for a reasonable fee from JPay kiosks or similar systems.

VDOC would start this program by making the following core subjects mandatory for all inmates: Basic English, Basic Math, Basic Finance, and skill training for specific jobs. Once inmates master these core subjects, they could choose to continue their education and earn a GED certification and then take advanced college level courses.

In addition, ICARE would offer opportunities to inmates to expand their horizions and keep their brains active by purchasing or renting a variety of approved e-books, e-periodicals, educational videos, movie and music videos and approved video games, and to channel their artistic and literary creativity through the use of graphic art, word processing and other applications.

By giving inmates such opportunities to educate themselves and each other in their cells, day rooms and dormitories, ICARE would help them use their time more constructively and encourage them to become more self reliant and better prepared to return to our technology saturated society, thereby helping to close the revolving door in our criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, make our communities safer and ease the burden on taxpayers.

Here are my proposed ICARE tablet specifications:

1. Affordable for all inmates
2. Clear, durable case (to prevent contraband from being hidden inside)
3. Security screws to prevent tampering
4. Screen size of 10.1 inches or larger
5. Minimal memory of 32 GB (expandable)
6. Sufficient storage (cloud based?)
7. Preloaded operating system, Microsoft Windows 8.1 or newer
8. Touch screen
9. Power cord to operate unit and recharge batteries (no external adapter)
10. Mini USB port for Firewire cord
11. Firewire cord to connect with J-Pay kiosk
12. Standard USB for optional thumb drive
13. Headphone jacks for multiple users
14. Earbuds
15. Rechargeable battery
16. Instructional manual
17. Parts and labor warranty (one year)
18. Detachable lighted keyboard (optional)
19. Wireless mouse/scanner combo (optional)
20. Thumb drive

Excluded items would be cameras or web cams, card readers, internal speakers, microphones or recording devices, or any network ports (no Wi-Fi or Internet capability).

Other fee-based services would include e-mail access and printing services through a printer located in the mail room and controlled by their staff. Inmates would be charged per page, as they are currently for copying services.

I pray that God will allow me to be paroled so I can help implement this and other ideas I have to help inmates.

Charles Zellers, Sr.
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