The Internet is now as essential to American education, employment, and productivity as grade school. If we want people to have any chance of building productive lives for themselves after they get out of jail, we simply must give them access to the Internet while they’re in jail.
Making prisons solely punitive with no chance of inmates learning job skills virtually guarantees a high recidivism rate. Is that what we want?
The rate of technological change is so fast now that after a few years in prison and you’ll come out seriously behind the curve. I spoke with a woman in about 2000 who had spent four years in prison on drug charges and upon release was seriously disoriented for a bit after she saw people talking on phones while walking down the street. She said she felt like she was on a different planet.
Would some inmates try to use the net for mischief? Probably. So it would need to be locked down some (no porno, etc.) but maybe at least some of them would learn skills that would get them jobs, which would make things safer for the rest of us, and save money too.