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County Seeks Vendors’ Help on Plan for Jail Inmate Phones, Tablets

A Silicon Valley county has issued a request for information for a new phone system, tablets and intranet for jail inmates. The current contract expires in October 2022.

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One of California’s larger counties has issued a request for information from vendors interested in pursuing a potential contract to provide phone service and access to tablets to jail inmates.

Santa Clara County on Friday issued the RFI, which calls for “best-in-class” inmate phone and tablet platform and related services. The county’s current contract expires on Oct. 21, 2022. Based on data provided by the county – which has a population of almost 2 million, making it the state’s sixth-most populous – key statistics for the current system include:
  • Two jail facilities (Main Jail and Elmwood Correctional Facility)
  • Average inmate census for the past six months: 2,375 (approx.)
  • Average number of phone calls per month for the past six months: 1,957
  • Average number of phone minutes per month for the past six months: 20,558
  • Number of currently deployed tablets: 2,841 (approx.)

“The phone system and tablets are provided to the county on a turnkey basis and are fully managed by the incumbent vendor,” the county says in its RFI. “The only exception to this is the Wi-Fi connectivity in the jail facilities, which is provided by the county.”

Phones should be sturdy, corded and available in booths. Jail officials must be able to monitor calls, break into them as necessary and terminate a call if needed.

As for the tablets, “The county is particularly interested in a solution that uses gamification techniques to incentivize inmates to complete these types of courses (such as providing credits for phone usage or access to entertainment content),” the RFI says. The tablets are subject to significant requirements and limitations and would allow inmates to perform the following activities:
  • Advance their education and allow participation in vocational, self-help and health improvement courses.
  • All applications are required to be intranet-based and run on the vendor’s internal network. Tablets shall not allow inmates access to the public Internet.
  • Submit requests and place commissary orders.
  • Submit grievances and appeals.
  • Provide entertainment in the form of e-books, movies, games and music.
  • Use the tablets for voice and video calls, integrating with the county’s custody phone system, messaging and ability to receive photos.
  • Use video and audio as an alternative to in-person inmate visitation with attorneys, medical providers, program-based counselors and clergy. The system should have related support for protecting confidential inmate communications (e.g., discussions with legal representatives).
  • Access the legal library and related content.

Vendors must explain how their electronic payment platform works with the payment system of the department’s contracted commissary vendor, enabling inmate purchases through the tablets, the RFI documents state. Vendors must explain how their system will provide full-scale, comprehensive monitoring, recording, feature controls and reporting, and how they can segregate protected discussions, such as conversations with attorneys or clergy.

Respondents should also include specifications on power requirements and provide tablet charging options, average length of battery life based on medium and heavy usage, overheating, power on or off during charging, and other factors related to the charging process, as well as any other information relevant to tablet operation.

Vendors should submit the appropriate documentation outlined in the requested response section by 3 p.m. Oct. 15. Those intending to respond should contact Christopher Eglesia, a buyer for the county.
Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.