Can Prisoners Use the Internet?

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In most cases, prisoners cannot access the Internet while incarcerated. In the US, only 49 correctional systems and five Canadian provinces allow inmates to use the Internet under supervision. This is because prison officials cite concerns about security and misuse.

Internet access policies in correctional systems

1. Internet Access and Prisons

In most developed countries, internet access is considered a basic right. However, prisoners in the United States have limited access to the internet. Many correctional facilities prohibit inmates from using the internet due to concerns about security and safety. Inmates may use the Internet for illegal activities such as harassment, contraband delivery, or committing new crimes online.

2. Impact on Rehabilitation

Some activists and technology companies believe that providing prisoners with digital communication could aid in their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Studies show that inmates who regularly communicate with their families and friends tend to have better outcomes upon release. Being internet-savvy is increasingly becoming an essential survival skill, and inmates who have access to the internet are better positioned to succeed in today’s digital world.

3. Ways to Access Information in Prison

Prisoners can access information through various means, such as libraries, television, radio, and communication with friends and family. They can also receive subscriptions, including newspapers and magazines, in the mail. However, most of these services are considered privileges, and prisons can take them away for breaking rules or other reasons.

4. Internet Access for Inmates

Some states, such as federal prisons, allow limited access to the internet via systems such as CoreLinks or JPay. These systems permit inmates to access text-only email and video conferencing services and messaging, for a fee. However, internet access policies vary widely across different facilities and states, and not all inmates have access to such systems.

Purpose of restricting Internet access for prisoners

Prisoners are generally denied free access to the internet while serving out their sentence. The purpose of this restriction is to prevent them from conducting illegal activities such as hacking, cyberbullying, and accessing terrorist content on the internet. Prison officials realize that even a single online action from a prisoner may affect public safety hugely.

  • Additionally, authorities are often concerned about prisoners creating false identities to continue their illegal practices and conduct criminal activities. Prisoners may use social media and communication tools to threaten or intimidate their victims and followers.
  • Furthermore, the internet could be a source of information and encouragement for prisoners to escape. By researching various topics, prisoners can devise escape plans or gather information on potential targets. They can also connect with people who may assist them in their breakout mission.

The restriction of internet access for prisoners is intended to help maintain discipline and prevent contraband from entering the prison facilities. To uphold security and protect the public from potential threats that may arise from internet usage, authorities ensure strict monitoring of prisoners’ communication channels and internet usage. In conclusion, prisoners are not typically granted free access to the internet to maintain discipline, prevent illegal activities, and ensure public safety.

Can Prisoners Use the Internet?

Access to the internet is a given privilege for most people. However, for prisoners, it is a struggle to have access to the digital world. Some prison facilities have limited internet connections, while others punish inmates for their families posting on their behalf. Prison authorities are concerned that inmates may use the internet to cause trouble or harm others.

Still, campaigners argue that getting prisoners digitally connected can help them with rehabilitation. Some prisoners use tablets from companies that distribute basic tablets to states across the country. Prison systems prohibit any internet activity other than email, while some ban inmates from Facebook. Despite these restrictions, some prisoners have found ways to publish their work online.

Recently, California promised to provide internet access by the end of 2021, allowing prisoners to email their loved ones through a restricted prison messaging service and download content like movies and books. For convicted felons, real-time internet access is a matter of exercising their first amendment rights and staying connected with the outside world.

With internet fluency becoming increasingly crucial in the job market, it’s essential to provide prisoners with more meaningful access to the internet. Innovative platforms from Belgium offer limited internet access to prisoners, and some open prisons in Denmark offer limited internet access. Furthermore, President Joe Biden said that the majority of incarcerated Americans deserve a bona fide life, and for that, they need some form of internet access.

The Debate on Prisoner’s Right to Internet Access

The question of whether prisoners should have access to the Internet has been debated for years. Some argue that internet access is a human right that should be extended to prisoners. Others, however, believe that allowing prisoners to access the internet could lead to potential misuse of technology.

Currently, most prisons in the US do not grant inmates internet access due to concerns related to safety and security. There are, however, efforts to push for more widespread use of technology in prisons. Some argue that internet access could help with rehabilitation and reduce recidivism rates.

  • Limited internet access is available in some juvenile detention facilities in the US, but most prisons do not provide it. One company has distributed basic tablets in a dozen states that allow inmates to communicate with family members, listen to music, and play games.
  • In other countries, the laws on internet access for inmates vary widely. Malayan prisoners who have undergone higher education are allowed limited internet access for research purposes.
  • Ultimately, the issue is complex and involves balancing individual rights with concerns about safety and security. As of now, the debate on whether to allow internet access for prisoners continues.

Case studies of countries allowing limited internet access

Internet access has become a human right and is deemed essential for communication, education, and entertainment. However, prisoners in most countries are not given access to the internet. Some prisons in the United States allow limited access to the internet for a variety of purposes like listening to music or delivering educational programming. Moreover, some institutions permit prisoners to have access to private intranets. Nevertheless, the fees for using such services can be a burden on the prisoners and their families, and time is often limited on tablets and other devices.

In some countries, prisoners are allowed supervised internet access. In Norway, inmates have had access to the internet since the early 2000s, with strict limitations on the websites they can visit. In the United Kingdom, some prisoners were allowed tablet devices to aid in their rehabilitation, including limited internet access. In Canada, inmates in some provinces are given access to the Internet in a controlled setting for the purpose of job training and education.

These programs are not without their limitations, and many prison officials are wary of providing unsupervised access to the Internet. They fear that prisoners could use it to arrange for deliveries of contraband or commit new crimes online. However, proponents of internet access for prisoners argue that it could help with rehabilitation and reduce recidivism. It could give prisoners opportunities to broaden their perspectives, connect with the wider world in meaningful ways, and learn essential digital skills that exist in the world waiting for them upon release.


Access to the internet is considered a basic human right, affording people in developed countries limitless resources and connectivity. However, prisoners in the United States have limited to no access to the Internet, with some institutions punishing inmates whose families post on their behalf or severely punishing inmates for accessing the Internet illegally through smuggled cell phones. Despite fears of contraband access and engagement in digital crimes, increasing internet access for prisoners under controlled, monitored environments may offer rehabilitative benefits such as broadening perspectives, learning essential digital skills, and accessing educational resources.


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