In the Spring of 2022, Mt. Tamalpais college (Mt. Tam) at San Quentin (SQ) will provide its students with access to laptop computers.
“For the past twenty-five years, students have not had access to technology or computers during their studies,” wrote Mt Tam staff in June 2021. “They have written work and conducted research using printouts and course readers sourced by faculty members and a limited collection of books.”
According to a “Letter of Agreement “ between Mt. Tam and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), there will be 35 Windows laptops, one charging cart, and a printer provided for the initial roll-out. More laptops and printers will roll- out in the future.
“Very few programs at SQ have been allowed to bring any technology or equipment inside the prison, resulting in a mark technology gap among incarcerated people upon their release,” wrote Staff.
The computers will be accessible in a computer lab set up in the B building education area. Mt. Tam students who have completed a computer assessment test will have access to these laptops.
A schedule for accessing the lab will be posted for sign up and there will be computer lab assistants.
“I really appreciate the opportunity to not have to live in a separate universe from the rest of society,” said Mt Tam student Dennis Jefferson, who took the assessment.
Jefferson grew up in a home that had a computer but said he never really saw the value in having one. He didn’t use them in his field of work and when he did it was simply to access games and music.
Jefferson has taken a computer literacy course since he’s been in prison that he said helped prepare him for the assessment test.
“What I like most is the convenience of the laptops,” he said. “I normally use the law library to d manual research for my college papers. Now, I look forward to having research capabilities at my
The laptops will have limited internet access capabilities to access sites pre-approved by CDCR. Students will have access to common office software, Windows operating, system, ope source material, LexisNexis, articles, books, and educational videos on a student portal called “Canvas.”
Students will be able to prepare, print, and save documents they create, create presentations and do spreadsheets.
Michael Moore is also one of the students who took the laptop assessment test. At age 61 this is his first time using a computer. “ I came to prison before there were any laptops. I’ve never touched a computer. I’ve never taken a computer literacy course,” he said.
More said that the first thing he noticed was how heavy the computers are. But he is excited to start learning how to use them.
“I’m really glad that we’re able to experience this technology. I feel a little bit more connected to the world learning about it,” he said.
The assessment test takes about an hour and a half. Students are familiarized with the device and then ask to perform several different tasks. They then get to develop their own username password and they are taught how to store the devices in the charging cart.
“Ultimately, we hope that students will have access to the laptops during lockdowns or quarantines and be able to engage in synchronous and asynchronous remote instruction as needed.” wrote Mt Tam staff.
They anticipate students will eventually be able to use the laptops in their living areas and be able to turn in assignments online to their instructors when necessary.
According to CDCR, Offender-Use laptops are scheduled to be distributed to all California prisons starting in January 2022.
A memorandum from the Superintendent of Correctional Education’s Division of Rehabilitation Programs (DRP), states that the laptops will be distributed one prison at a time. By 2023 all CDCR offenders assigned to an education program will have access.
CDCR has received funding to provide rehabilitation courses through a secured cloud inmate network, called DR Learning Network. Rehabilitation curriculum and software will be available on the laptops for Adult Basic Education, GED and high school diplomas, college transitions,
Peer Literacy Mentor program, Cognitive-behavioral interventions, E-Learning and Career Technical Education.
The laptops are designed to help supplement in-person learning, according to CDCR. “I think it’s important that we get integrated into the new universe instead of being trapped in this parallel universe without technology,” said Jefferson.