Convicts imprisoned within the Federal Bureau of Prisons have access to the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS), a computer system that permits inmates to email permitted contacts in the community, among other things. Communications are sent through an outside service called Google Mail.
In addition to TRULINCS, inmates can send and receive emails through their own personal computers or mobile devices if they purchase them with funds from their account. However, these items must be purchased with institutional cash, meaning money taken directly from their accounts for items such as rent, utilities, and food. They may also use money from their accounts to pay for telephone calls or visitations to family members on site or away from prison.
Federal prisoners cannot use their accounts to withdraw money; however, they can write letters to friends and family members who then deposit those funds into their accounts. Finally, they can also use their accounts to buy goods from institutions vendors if they first obtain permission from their unit manager.
Email is considered a privilege inside prisons rather than a right, so inmates can be denied access to it for various reasons. For example, administrators may want to limit how much information convicts are able to communicate with family members outside of prison.
TRULINCS are now used in all institutions run by the Bureau of Prisons. Outside of the TRULINCS program, virtually all states prevent offenders from using the Internet, drastically limiting their access to technology-based educational possibilities. The majority of individuals incarcerated in US prison facilities cannot reach the education opportunities available through online courses.
In addition to preventing inmates from accessing online content, many state prisons also prohibit them from owning personal computers or smartphones, effectively isolating them from social media and other aspects of outside life. Prison systems often cite security concerns as justification for this policy, but experts believe that this is primarily a cost-saving measure. In order to receive educational benefits from online courses, individuals must be able to access the web. If they are not allowed computers or phones, then they cannot complete most courses.
Only four states (Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, and South Carolina) allow some form of broadband service inside correctional facilities. These services are typically provided by private companies that contract with state governments, and can only be accessed by individuals inside prison walls via computer terminals located in the prison library or education center. There are no mobile phone networks within US prison facilities, so messaging and video calling are not possible anywhere except between friends/family on the outside.
Inmates in federal prisons have restricted access to the internet. Every Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) prison has TRULINCS, which allows convicts to transmit filtered, text-only messages to the outside world. These messages can be sent using an email program such as Microsoft Word or Google Mail.
In addition to TRULINCS, inmates also have limited access to computers in prison libraries or else they could use them to send emails and look up information on websites. Most federal prisons require inmates to utilize these technology tools properly and avoid sending harmful material through them. Those who do not follow this rule may receive additional restrictions on their mail privileges.
In 2007, the FCC concluded that inmates have a constitutional right to internet access. However, this decision is still under appeal and it is unclear how it will be implemented into practice.