||Who: The city of Philadelphia has partnered with Jail Education Solutions (JES) (also known
as Edovo, the name of its educational platform), a Chicago-based startup, to undertake a pilot program providing tablets to incarcerated individuals in select secure facilities. The city uses JES to provide literacy, postsecondary, and vocational programming, financial literacy, and cognitive therapy. JES is also used to provide trainings to staff.
What: The pilot program between Philadelphia and JES gives both male and female incarcerated individuals in the city access to more than 100 tablets. JES received a $30,000 supplement from the city to roll out the pilot. JES will eventually rent the tablets to users for $2 a day (other weekly, monthly, or unlimited packages will be available as well), which will allow the company to be self- sustaining. Edovo is securely designed for use in common areas and day rooms so access to education exists throughout the day. Edovo employs an incentive-based learning platform to reward users with points and certificates when they reach benchmarks. These points can be exchanged for free entertainment options — movies, music, and games — driving interest and engagement even with fringe students. “I had enough points to go play a game after finishing my first GED® class, but I was so jacked, I just kept going to the next lesson,” said Julian C., an inmate in the Philadelphia Prison System.
Why: Traditionally, it has been difficult to incorporate technology into incarcerated individuals’ lives. Jails often do not have space for a computer lab, and, if they do, they require significant monitoring, because these individuals cannot have unrestricted access to the Internet. Edovo’s cost-defraying model is attractive to budget-constrained state and county systems, and is affordable for most incarcerated students.
• The city of Philadelphia initiated a creative solution by partnering with FastFWD, run by the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, to launch the prison projects.
• User progress tracking is available to prison and jail administration, courts, and community corrections organizations.
• Foundational support from the MacArthur Foundation and the Kellogg Innovation Network provides data-collection and analysis opportunities to further evidence-based practices.
• Transitioning funding for continuing innovations from foundations to self-sustaining or government support is difficult to accomplish.
• Expanding services from one city to the state as a whole is a significant undertaking.
• Philadelphia seeks to be a state and national leader in openness to new technology to support educational gains in prisons and jails.
Source: In addition to phone interviews, the content of this profile is based on Rawlins 2014.
For more information, contact The City of Philadelphia Prison System via http://www.phila.gov/prisons/.