Prisoners and the Importance of Positive Human Touch by Natalie Korman

Prisoners and the Importance of Positive Human Touch by Natalie Korman

Research has shown that physical human touch, particularly positive and supportive touch, is necessary for a healthy emotional state. While many people may be familiar with babies needing to be held and cuddled to develop healthily, humans in general must also receive and give positive physical contact to maintain a healthy emotional state.

Many adults, even those with numerous family and friends may be lacking in positive physical contact. However, incarcerated people are not just among the most socially isolated in our society, they are physically isolated — specifically, isolated from positive human touch.

While it may be common knowledge that violence — including sexual violence — occurs in prison, the gravity of the issue may not be as widely considered. Whether at the hands of their fellow inmates or of prison staff, incarcerated people may only know for years what it’s like to be touched by people who either have no interest in their wellbeing or outright wish them harm or death.

Some prisoners may be lucky enough to enjoy the spontaneous, positive touch of fellow inmates who are also friends. However, when some nonviolent touch occurs  it may be calculated and particular. Friends or allies may shake hands or even embrace. But every moment of physical contact may be measured in some way to initiate or preserve alliances, or break them, in order to maintain the inmate’s status or survival in prison. And if inmates do engage in nonviolent, consensual sexual activities with each other, it is always illicit, per prison rules.

Incarcerated people are, of course, also denied the ability to touch their loved ones: their family and friends. While some prisoners can touch visitors, if they have visitors at all, some are separated by thick glass. Others still might find visiting hours cruelly unaccommodating. Additionally, highly invasive strip searches are standard procedure before and after a prisoner receives a vist. Millions of opportunities for positive physical contact are poisoned or vanish altogether as soon as a person enters prison.

Shrinking visiting hours and poor opportunities for communication plague inmates and their families. Private companies provide prisons with services for phone calls, video calls, and email (at a profit) and there is growing concern that these extremely expensive digital and phone connections are replacing in-person visiting at some facilities, further distancing prisoners from positive human touch.

While many prisoners may have the dogged support from and frequent contact with family and friends, there are many who do not. Some prisoners, for a variety of reasons, receive few or no letters, phone calls or visits. This can have a devastating effect on the person in prison.

Solving the issue of the lack of positive human touch and supportive human contact for people incarcerated in the United States is a matter of a greater scope than this post can address. But there are ways individuals and institutions can support prisoners within the current context of incarceration even as organizers and activists resist against a system that so thoroughly dehumanizes millions of people.

Writing to a prisoner, for example, is one of the easiest ways to give support. Receiving their calls, sending supplies and books, or visiting them in person is vital to any given prisoner, too. But a letter is usually the easiest way for someone on the outside to reach in. And while letters cannot replace face-to-face contact or ease the lack of positive touch prisoners face, letters can provide an emotional lifeline to someone in dire need of one.

Adopt an Inmate facilitates the connection between incarcerated individuals and the people who wish to lend their support. AI is always looking for compassionate people who want to be there for someone who may have no one else on the outside. Submit this form to start the process.


Natalie Korman is a poet, writer, and editor living in Northern California. She is the author of the poetry chapbook Heliotropics (dancing girl press). In 2017, after being introduced to Adopt an Inmate by a former classmate, Natalie began correspondences with two people through the organization; both are now meaningful friendships. In the spirit of Adopt an Inmate, Natalie believes ongoing healing from institutional and interpersonal harm is a necessary part of the struggle for a more just and peaceful world.


Florida DOC announces Jpay services beginning Spring 2018

Link

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) is in the process of implementing a new service for our inmate population. Through JPay Inc., a Florida–based company, the Department will make available a variety of multimedia services to inmates through both an interactive kiosk, available in each general population housing unit, and secure tablets. These services are geared toward enhancing family connections, expanding educational opportunities, and incentivizing positive inmate behavior at no cost to the Florida taxpayer.

FDC will implement kiosk services in all major correctional institutions, annexes, work camps, re–entry centers, and Department–operated Community Release Centers throughout the state. Implementation of kiosks began in August 2017, with a projected completion date in the Spring of 2018. Upon completion of the kiosk implementation, secure tablets will be made available for purchase. (projected Spring 2018). Educational content, including JPay’s Learning Management System (LMS) Lantern LMS and Khan Academy Lite videos will be available.

Additional services include:

Kiosk Services Tablet Options
Secure Email, including pictures Educational Content (including JPay’s Learning Management System (LMS) Lantern LMS and Khan Academy Lite videos)
Video Visitation Movies (available for rental)
Electronic Greeting Cards eBooks and Audio Books
Video Grams Games
Link to Employ Florida Marketplace job search Video Grams
News
Music (MP3/MP4)

Video Visitation

Video visitation will be offered at the cost of $2.95 per 15-minute session, making it a very affordable option for inmates who want more access to their families, and competitive with the rates in other states.

Secure Mail

Secure Mail is available to inmates at a cost of $0.39/stamp, with one stamp purchasing one email. This is $0.10 cheaper than the cost of a first-class postage stamp, currently at $0.49. The cost of Secure Mail covers the cost of the infrastructure to support it and monitoring of the messages for safety and security purposes.

Cost

All inmates who currently have a digital music player, through an existing contract with Keefe Commissary Network, are eligible receive a free JP5mini tablet, along with a $10 credit to apply to media purchases. All other inmates will have an opportunity to purchase either the JP5mini (4.3” tablet) for $79.99 or the JP5S (7” tablet) for $129.99. Additionally, for the first 60 days after implementation at their institution, inmates can purchase tablets for a 50% discount.

Each secure tablet will come with complementary content, provided at no additional cost to the inmate, including several games, 100 classic eBooks, relaxation music, and access to educational content including Khan Academy Lite videos and GED preparation. The cost of games, movies, ebooks, audiobooks, and music will vary depending on the item purchased, similar to how prices in online stores like Apple iTunes and Google Play vary.

The Department is committed to ensuring that services provided to inmates are offered at a fair and reasonable cost that maximizes the use and benefits of these services. Through careful monitoring and a clear contract, this partnership with JPay, Inc. has the potential to modernize programming for inmates and provide the Department a delivery channel for future innovative programming ideas.