Date of Degree

6-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Criminal Justice

Advisor

Amy Adamczyk

Committee Members

Teresa A. Booker

Samantha Majic

Joshua Cochran

Subject Categories

Criminology | Political Theory | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance

Keywords

prison, communication, technology, covid, visits, virtual

Abstract

The intersection between criminal justice and technology is fairly understudied, despite increasing technological advancements in the world and within the criminal justice system. A rather recent addition to the technological landscape of prison is the adoption of tablets used by imprisoned people for communication and connection with loved ones and other activities, which is particularly important given the context of COVID-19, a virus which caused a global pandemic from 2020-2022. While the use of tablets by imprisoned people appears to be a new trend, the use of tablets in prison both prior to and during the pandemic has remained an untested phenomenon, not yet evaluated by social scientists. The dissertation sought to address this gap in literature by interviewing fifteen people formerly incarcerated in the Ohio State Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) and surveying a difficult to reach population, people currently incarcerated in ODRC (n=78), concerning their communication with loved ones using tablets and its meaning on their life and re-entry into society. The results of this study indicate that tablets are socially-situated in nature, and therefore the meaning of tablets depends upon the use of tablets by imprisoned people which is mediated by several factors concerning imprisoned people’s individual and environmental contexts. The quantitative study indicates that imprisoned people’s use and experience of tablets prior to and during COVID-19 is mediated by their demographic characteristics such as their age, parental status, marital status, and years served in prison, according to the quantitative study. The qualitative study indicates that several factors concerning imprisoned people’s life inside of prison (e.g., technical glitches and correctional officers’ attitudes) and outside of prison (e.g., their support system and financial standing) mediate their use of tablets in prison, and ultimately undermine the meaning of tablets for imprisoned people.

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