Innovation That Matters

Tablet-based learning in US prisons

Nonprofit & Social Cause

Chicago-startup, Edovo, is helping US prisons improve the way they approach inmate education.

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The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. And although overall spending on prisons continues to rise, the budget for prisoner education has shrunk. Studies by The Rand Corporation report that the rate of return on investment in prison education is high, claiming that for every USD 1 spent, USD 4 or 5 is saved in connection with the costs involved in reoffending. Combine this with the statistic that education while incarcerated reduces recidivism by 43% and there is a very clear business case for our next innovation. Edovo is an education startup that supplies prisons with tablets through which they can access academic resources and content that will help them prepare for life on the outside.

The product consists of a robust looking tablet that links to a dedicated website only as the tablets are connected to a private cloud server, not to the public internet. The website allows users access to core learning modules such as maths and reading, as well as vocational training designed to support them more broadly, such as parenting-while-incarcerated classes, cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and anger management exercises. In exchange for completing learning modules, the inmates gain access to entertainment and games, so a two-hour class equates to 30 minutes to play a game of online sudoku, for example. “We have 2.25 million people sitting around in jails or prisons on any given day and most of them are watching daytime television,” says Brian Hill, founder of Edovo. “That’s not the best thing we can be doing for them, both for taxpayers and the individuals themselves.”

The tablet will cost 75 cents per inmate per day and is currently licensed to prisons in 15 states, with another 5 to join very soon. Springwise recently wrote about an Italian innovation that teaches female prisoners social media skills and sewing. How else can technology bring safe interaction with the outside world to meet the needs of a costly incarcerated population?



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