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MrGrimm888's avatar

Would you be okay with prison inmates going to college via a small robot, with an ipad for a face/camera? (Details )

Asked by MrGrimm888 (19096points) August 26th, 2016

I saw an episode of a show I watch where convicts could go to college. But they weren’t physically there. It was an ipad on a stick,with a small base like that of a segway. The inmates can see,and project themselves from the ipad via Internet.

I think it’s a great idea. If done right….

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20 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

Maybe it would be an even better idea to have “actual college” inside prisons in the first place. That way some of the students who need to be exposed to how the “other half” really does live sometimes would get the necessary exposure.

janbb's avatar

There are a number of different interfaces currently for “distance education.” I would be surprised if there weren’t already college courses being offered through the internet in prisons. But sure, what could be bad about anything that furthers education?

Mariah's avatar

They’re called telepresence. Such robots have also been proposed for use by children who are bedridden or hospital-bound.

I think it’s a great idea.

Sneki95's avatar

Sounds good.

imrainmaker's avatar

Unless they start using it for something else that should be fine. They should be given opportunity to improve themselves without any doubt.

Dutchess_III's avatar

They can also take online courses. IT can set the computers up for strictly limited access. The HS diploma program I taught was on-line, with each student working on a different subject, with me physically in the room to teach and to answer questions.

The robot thing would be much more expensive, IMO. Somebody’s gotta pay for that.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I would imagine only prisoners on the lowest rung would be able to use such technology (and I doubt that would happen here). I have incarcerated students and I can’t recall one who has been allowed unfettered access to the internet. They tend to have education officers who email on their behalf or if they’re allowed to email, their email is monitored. They aren’t allowed to interact with their peers or their tutor directly.

Whether I’d be fine with the idea would depend on the prisoner. Who I’d be comfortable with having access to such technology would be determined by what their crime was. There are white collar criminals I wouldn’t want having access to such technology, let alone those who are inside for violent crime.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit IT can severely limit internet access. My students were allowed to access the Odyssey teaching program, the same site the students on the outside accessed, but that was it. Could they break through the security? Sure, if they were savvy enough. But I was right there, at all times. I could see all monitors at all times. I could also tap into their computers and take over their screens, if need be.
And they risked getting kicked out of the program if they tried. They did not want to get kicked out of the program.

I ended up starting to build my own, in house wiki program, using Word, Excel, and hyperlinks, so my students could have some facsimile of the vast resources on the internet, without having actual internet access.

NerdyKeith's avatar

Like @CWOTUS has pointed out, it would be better to educate the inmates inside the prison. They could even do an eLearning course. It’s more cost effective.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@NerdyKeith and @CWOTUS the students I’m working with are completing study with external universities. There’s no way for the prison system to provide that level of education. The programs they can participate in is already limited because of their ability to complete research. They can usually only complete programs that require academic study and have no practical components that require interaction with the general public. I don’t work within the prison system, but my experience is that each prison has its own rules depending on its security level. However, as I mentioned, even prisoners in low-level security systems don’t have unrestricted or unmonitored access to the net. How easily students can study often comes down to how committed their education officer is to helping them. Some seem to be motivated to hinder rather than help.

NerdyKeith's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit I see. But wouldn’t a restricted internet access to allow them to do online courses not work better? A computer can very easily be set up to block a large number of websites, as it is done in many third level institutions.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Yes, it would. However, it would also allow some of those less savoury people to do things that aren’t related to their academic work. To contact victims, to harass public officials and I’m sure a million things I can’t think of but that prison authorities wouldn’t want them doing. I’d say the risk of prisoners misusing access to the general public, even if the risk is small, would outweigh any academic benefit the students might garner for their studies.

CWOTUS's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit you’re not tracking what I’m suggesting. I’m not suggesting “prison system” college; I’m suggesting that we move an entire college / university into a low-risk prison population. “The prison system” would still have to administer the prison, of course – as long as it’s going to exist – but the college could and should be independent of that.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Do you really think that would work @CWOTUS? Perhaps with your community college system it might have a chance, but I’m doubtful. Would students from outside the prison system be able to enrol? How would security be managed? How would they attract academics to teach there? Who would fund this prison-based university? What sort of vetting would academics who work there need to go through? And would there be a prison university in each prison/state? Or just one that works across prisons and states?

It sounds like a nightmare to establish and administer and a nightmare that is unlikely to be supported by governments who see prisons as a punitive measure rather than a rehabilitative opportunity.

University’s are themselves hugely bureaucratic and expensive organisations to administer.

CWOTUS's avatar

I honestly don’t know. However, prison isn’t ‘working’ and college is barely ‘working’, so it’s worth a shot, I think. And my expectation is that students from outside the prison would have to enroll for it to have a chance. After all, prison is not the place where the best and the brightest go – but there is no reason to throw away an entire population because of certain stupid acts, errors in judgment and bad behaviors that may have occurred years in the past.

This isn’t an idea that I’ve given a lot of thought to; only since I saw your Q, in fact. So I have zero answers to the follow-ups.

It may be, in fact, that the college could ‘support’ the prison, rather than the other way ‘round.

MrGrimm888's avatar

I just thought it would help inmates get to ‘move’ around in a real college. Interacting with people who are maybe not like the people they grew up around. Some good might rub off. Yes it would be more expensive than doing it in the prison, but prison isn’t a good learning environment.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Unfortunately, you are talking about prisoners. People who are incarcerated because they’ve committed a crime. Even if their crime is white collar crime, I doubt authorities would be okay with convicted prisoners having access to the general population. While some would be respectful of the opportunity, some would abuse it and the authorities would be responsible for any crime or negative fallout from their actions.

I think it would also create another layer of difficulty for those managing the prison population. Who would be granted these privileges? How would you ensure they weren’t manipulated by other prisoners into using their access for criminal activity?

As I mentioned, I do have incarcerated people taking courses I’m responsible for. However, neither I or my tutors have direct contact with them apart from through our feedback. They submit their assignments. We mark them and give them feedback, but that’s the extent of our interaction. I am given a name, but I know sometimes that name is not the person’s real name. I’d really rather not know who they are or what they’ve done. I know some of the people I’ve taught have been extremely violent criminals, but I only know this because someone told me later. I don’t ask and I don’t want to know what they’ve done. I don’t seek out any additional information. I think knowing might affect how I view their work and I don’t think that’s fair to them.

cookieman's avatar

I’m all for educating inmates in any way possible. I think it is the key to reducing recidivism. I do think in-person learning is best, but I’m not picky.

My wife taught ESL to inmates in a maximum security prison for a couple years early in her career. She always said they were lovely students.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit I used to teach in our local jail, which also housed inmates from prisons around the state.

IT can easily set the computers up for access to one site, and one site only. They can’t contact victims! They can’t get on Facebook. They can’t even access Wikipedia. They can’t access anything other than the teaching website. Nothing.

And it’s not like they’re unsupervised when they’re using the computers.

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