• Posted Tuesday, August 8, 2017

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APDS' Digital Library Featured at National Librarian Conference Digipalooza '17


American Prison Data Systems shared stories and insights from our digital library at Digipalooza – a convening of librarians and library professionals in Cleveland, Ohio each year to share insights and best practices for digital content. APDS’s Director of Education Strategy, Jesse Applegate, presented as a member of the Secrets from the Front Lines: How Successful Libraries and Schools are Changing the Rules conversation.

“As an educational strategy experience with decades of public education experience, I know that learning starts everywhere. ” Applegate said. “Allowing our incarcerated learners to unlock their own worlds through more than 1500 digital titles has been incredible rewarding. I love hearing when teachers in prisons and jails incorporate National Corrections Library into their curriculum in the classrooms.”

Applegate presented alongside some of the most innovative digital library representatives in the US, including the minds behind NC Kids’ Library, the first kids-only digital library, Harris County Public Library’s 1 million ebooks initiative and Sno-Isle Libraries.

“It was such a pleasure to be at Digipalooza and present alongside such fantastic educators,” Applegate said. “Their innovative work truly inspires APDS as we strive, in partnership with Overdrive, to drastically increase access to high-quality reading materials in correctional facilities across the country.”

Watch: interviews with incarcerated learners about National Corrections Library

“We were thrilled when OverDrive reached out to ask us to present at this year’s Digipalooza,” said American Prison Data Systems CEO and founder Chris Grewe. “We hear from so many folks that reading on the tablet is a way to relax, to disconnect and to , and we’re glad to share that story with others.”

2nd day of graphic recording at OverDrive for Libraries Digipalooza 2017

Posted by See Your Words, LLC on Friday, August 4, 2017


National Corrections Library is an APDS product that offers thousands of corrections-approved digital titles to incarcerated learners using APDS tablets to reach their education, rehabilitation and reentry goals.

American Prison Data Systems, PBC is a NYC-based Public Benefits Corporation and Best for the World-designated B Corporation which offers a connected tablet solution to correctional facilities to support secure online inmate education, job training, rehabilitation services, healthcare, mental health, teacher communications, and more.  

  • Posted Monday, February 20, 2017

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The Pain of Passbooks

Passbooks were used in apartheid South Africa to classify anyone who wasn’t white. The people of South Africa designated as “black” or “coloured” were forced to carry them at all times or risk being jailed or fined. Police stations would often conduct raids in the middle of the night to enforce the pass laws. They would break down doors, and demand to see passbooks, often taking parents away from children with little to no care about the consequences. Who would put food on the table? Who would make sure they’d go to school?  Who would feed them? Bathe them?  Who would parent them?

photo by Nancy Umana

Every family was affected in some way or another, with at least one family member in jail during apartheid. The passbooks were also to be signed by the individuals’  (white) employer, who reported on employees’ behavior every week. It was also used to segregate the population and manage urbanization – people could not travel from one town to another without showing a passbook. The black and coloured population of South Africa quickly grew to hate and fear the police and protest. While visiting Langa, a township in Cape Town, we were given the chance to visit one of the last standing buildings where the passbooks were dispensed. The building, our guide later told me, was colloquially known as the Dom Pass office – as in “stupid pass”, even though its official name was the Department of Native Affairs.

The Dom Pass Office // photo by Nancy Umana
The Dom Pass Office // photo by Nancy Umana

It was in that building that people were degraded, forced to apply for passbooks that would make their lives a complete nightmare. As we entered I noticed a lot of rooms, rooms used to complete the process. One was for pictures, the other was a medical examiner’s room where they administered shots, in the other they took your fingerprints, the rest were interview rooms or waiting areas.  Outside was a giant holding cell made out of steel metal bars to hold those who were arrested before they were transported to jails.

We made our way all the way to the back of the building, where we entered a room with an old wood desk with many papers on it. It was in the far right side of the room surrounded by a waiting area of  benches. This is where the superintendent handed you your official passbook after a series of intense questions. As our guide Mike spoke I thought of the passages in Kaffir Boy by Mark Marthabane where Mark and his mother had spent hours on the long lines waiting just to be seen.  I thought of the white man they encountered that denied him a passbook because his birth certificate wasn’t in order. I imagined long lines of people outside, I imagined the cells outside filled with women who failed to have their passbooks and paperwork in order. I imagined the anger and tears filling the air of those walls for years. The anger seemed to come alive in Mike. As he spoke, I could sense the frustration and disappointment in his words. He spoke of his people, his ancestors, his blood with a heavy, broken heart. He spoke of the rich white men living in the affluent South African suburb of Camps Bay, while his people struggled in the townships. It was as if he was speaking to the white man who had once oppressed his ancestors.

Afterwards, we got a chance to hold an old passbook. In my hand I held a little leather book barely kept together by tape, that once belonged to Sidakan William Platie. Sidakan was a member of  Xhosa people. He was identified as number #2308330. He showed no emotion in his picture, just held a straight face, a tired face. I thought of Sidakan and of all the people who possessed one of these books, how it must have felt to constantly guard this little leather book with your life, and how much hatred one must have had towards it. I took it all in, held the book in my hands and scanned the room one last time before I left. I did the same as I left the building. I looked at the empty grounds, the empty jail house, and could hear the screams of the masses of people gathered here twenty years ago.
I looked at the street name. What had once been Washington St. now was King Langalibalele. He was a king of the amaHlubi, a Bantu tribe in modern-day province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It wasn’t a surprise to me that the street name had been renamed. This was part of the New South Africa. The people no longer wanted to be ruled by painful memories.

FierceAdvocates_NancyNancy Umana-Melendez joined APDS as a Junior Support Associate in September of 2016, after interning for the NYC Department of Correction. She has also interned for U.S Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Nancy is a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and will graduate in May 2017 with Bachelors in Criminology and a minor in Psychology. 

  • Posted Monday, February 13, 2017

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On Robben Island and Forgiveness: A Visit To One of Apartheid South Africa’s Most Notorious Prisons

My name is Nancy Umana-Melendez, a college senior at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a support associate at American Prison Data Systems. For the past four years, I have been studying Criminology with a minor in Psychology, but it was just last year that I became highly interested in mass incarceration and education in prisons. This all came from being involved in the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program, at John Jay College through the Prison Reentry Institute.

The program incorporates a learning exchange between John Jay students and the incarcerated men at Otisville Correctional Facility. I was part of last year’s cohort. Each month my classmates and I would get on a van and drive two hours to Otisville Correctional Facility to learn alongside the inside students (incarcerated individuals), where classes were taught by CUNY professors with all different kinds of backgrounds, skills, and interests.

The classes never disappointed. There are no other college courses like them. Within the learning exchanges there is a craving and passion for academia like nothing I’ve experienced before. The energy, the intelligence from the incarcerated people is refreshing and was much needed in my second to last year at John Jay.

You can go to the most prestigious, highly ranked college in the nation, I promise you, the learning atmosphere at Otisville through the P2CP wouldn’t even come close. Professors leave the facility wishing they taught in prison instead of on the outside. Being in this program, I learned how hard it is for someone to get an education and the risks they face because they haven’t had the chances that we have. I learned that there are many different roads that led to mass incarceration, roads that have been paved by our very own ignorance. I learned that there are laws that target minorities and shatter whole communities and in return, create and reinforce the gap between the privileged and not so privileged. I learned that the criminal justice system, the police, the courts, the jails, the prison and probation has not only added to mass incarceration but is used as a tool to help keep the cycle oppression in check.

As I neared the end of the program my professor and founder of the Prison-to-College Pipeline, Baz Dreisinger announced that she would be hosting a study abroad program to South Africa during the Winter 2017 Semester incorporating Prison Reentry Work. Her main goal was to plant the seeds of starting the Prison-to-College Program in South Africa. I made it my top priority to get in.

I’m proud to say I was accepted, and on our fourth day in South Africa I couldn’t believe I was about to step onto Robben Island, which was used for isolation of political prisoners during the apartheid.

I expected Rikers Island, it was very much like it but empty, a ghost facility. Robben Island like Rikers Island in NYC was and still is its own community, isolated from the rest. During the apartheid, most of Robben Island was built by the prisoners themselves. They built the churches, the schools and the homes that housed the prison staff. As we arrived it was evident that there was no escape. The island was surrounded by nothing but water, from afar you could see Table Mountain, if it wasn’t too foggy. As we arrived, we were greeted by a mural that read, “FREEDOM CANNOT BE MANACLED!” I thought it was ironic and quite humorous for a place like this.

Freedom Cannot Be Manacled // photo by Nancy Umana
Freedom Cannot Be Manacled // photo by Nancy Umana

As we arrived,  a tall black man, who had been incarcerated for many years on this island during the apartheid, was our tour guide. He led us towards the entrance that read “Welcome Robbeneiland We Serve with Pride,” half in English, half in Afrikaans. I couldn’t imagine working as a guide on the very island that I had been dehumanized on.  I tried to make sense of it, then I remembered Nelson Mandela. Mandela had preached, forgiveness and reconciliation to the people of South Africa after his release.  I asked myself, has this man forgiven? Does telling his story to tourists, some who knew nothing about the struggles of his time, sit well with him?  Does he resent this place and the memories it holds of his past?

As everyone rushed ahead of me to listen to the man, I lagged on purpose. I wanted to be in the moment, take in the atmosphere, take pictures, and capture an image of the past in my mind. He walked us towards the maximum-security prison. The building looked well-kept and recently built. Later I would find out that this building was built by the prisoners themselves in the 1960s.  We walked through the corridors, past the warden’s office, armory, reception office and prison court. In the prison court prisoners were given their prison number, identity documents and uniform. In this room, they also were charged with breaking prison regulations, tried and sentenced to various forms of punishment.

We then passed the study office. To study, in the office or elsewhere, was a privilege that few political prisoners were granted. Our guide told us that many would be punished if caught studying.  Despite that threat, many political prisoners – who were lawyers, writers, and activists – secretly taught their fellow prisoners who didn’t have an education.  Our guide showed us the censor’s office, where all the mail to and from prisoners was censored. Prisoners would receive letters with holes cut out of them, making them virtually impossible to read and understand. As the tour continued, we reached what looked like a recreation area, but it was far from it. This was the outside area where prisoners were forced to work all day.

Outside Work Yard // photo by Nancy Umana
Yard at Robben Island // photo by Nancy Umana

Our tour guide pointed to Nelson Mandela’s garden , where Mandela had written his book Long Walk to Freedom, and hidden it between writing sessions. I had my copy of the book in my backpack and didn’t realize until I had left Robben Island.

Nelson Mandela's Garden // photo by Nancy Umana
Nelson Mandela’s Garden // photo by Nancy Umana

We headed back inside towards the housing areas, each cell had a straw sheet on the floor and no lavatory. The guide said they would use bins and empty them every morning. I looked down the long corridor and imaged it full, dark, cold with many black faces looking at us.

Nelson Mandela's Cell // photo by Nancy Umana
Nelson Mandela’s Cell // photo by Nancy Umana

The guide then pointed out Nelson Mandala’s cell. I pictured him inside of it, just thinking and writing, as humble as could be. What went on between those four walls?  He knew he would one day be released. In that time, Nelson Mandela prepared and dreamed of a free South Africa. A South Africa, where his people would be free to vote, would be free to educate themselves, would be free of the white oppressor, would be free to be a black or coloured African. As everyone took pictures of Nelson Mandela’s cell, I took the time to ask our tour guide what his crime was for being incarcerated. He stated he was charged with terrorism. He was political prisoner and was only fighting for his freedom and was deemed as a terrorist again his own home country. I was surprised by apartheid’s definition of terrorism. As an American, I think of terrorism as another concept .

As we left, the wind picked up a bit, and I thought about the prisoners who faced these same winds. They didn’t get blankets, only a thin sheet. They slept on the floor, on an island surrounded by water, the wind and the ocean breeze as their backyard. The wind was yet another obstacle that made surviving on the island difficult.

Soon we left the prison and headed towards a bus with a slogan, “DRIVEN BY FREEDOM.” It was almost as if freedom was being promoted in a sense. Our guide on the bus was black, he apologized for his English, and would say “Thank You” after every sentence. The stories he told the group were unbelievable!

He told us Robert Sobukwe, the founder of the Pan-Africanist Congress, was incarcerated on the island too. He was deemed so politically dangerous and influential that he was housed away from everyone else, on the other side of the island, completely alone in his unit, essentially in solitary confinement. He wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone including his own guards or he was subject to a beating.

Prisoners were only allowed 30 minute visits from family members and no conversations about the news or government were allowed. If I found myself in this situation, I wouldn’t want my family to come see me at all. A person’s family would have to travel for hours and hours, just to have 30 minutes with a loved one, where your conversations were limited and no personal contact was allowed, no hugs, no hand touching, nothing.

As he told these stories, I questioned the whole concept of forgiveness. I did not have these experiences, I was not part of the apartheid, I was not exposed to this. It wasn’t me who was buried in the ground and whose face was kicked in by officers for retaliating.

It wasn’t me who was hammering at rocks all day in the beaming sun. It wasn’t me who wasn’t allowed human contact. It wasn’t me who wasn’t allowed education. It wasn’t my letters that were torn into pieces. It wasn’t my family who suffered because I was in prison. This wasn’t my struggle, yet I still could not bring myself to understand how one could possibly begin to forgive and reconcile with one another for that kind of pain. I would not want to forgive; I would want to fight.

FierceAdvocates_NancyNancy Umana-Melendez joined APDS as a Junior Support Associate in September of 2016, after interning for the NYC Department of Correction. She has also interned for U.S Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Nancy is a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and will graduate in May 2017 with Bachelors in Criminology and a minor in Psychology. 

  • Posted Tuesday, November 29, 2016

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After Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday – you’ve probably pulled out your wallet more times than average this weekend. But consider reaching into your pocket once more. Each Tuesday after Thanksgiving, we hold up our favorite nonprofits and worthy causes to support with monetary donations. Check out a few of American Prison Data Systems’ favorite 501(c)3s and find easy links to donate after each one.

The Fortune Society, fortunesociety.org


The Fortune Society’s programs, including substance abuse treatment, and skill building for men and women preparing for release from jail, have helped participants avoid over 88,000 days in jail and prison in one year, saving the City and State of New York over $8 million.


Here are some non-monetary ways to support The Fortune Society

Vera Institute of Justice


The Vera Institute works with governments and civil leaders to improve justice systems in more than 40 states. Read their study, Making the Grade: Developing Quality Postsecondary Education Programs in Prison, and click donate below to help fund the quest to #ReimaginePrison.


Drive Change


A fellow member of our Center for Social Innovation family, Drive Change is doing amazing things – while making amazing food. Drive Change strives to use the food truck workplace to run a 1-year fellowship for young people returning home from jail/prison so they can obtain preferential employment and educational opportunities. Right now, that takes place in the maple syrup centered menu of the Snow Day food truck, but they hope to set up similar trucks all across the country.


Correctional Peace Officers Foundation


When a CO is hurt or loses their life in the line of duty, the burden of care and carrying on often falls on family – the CPOF has dedicated itself to be there during those incredibly hard times. In addition to Catastrophic Assistance, CPOF also offers academic scholarships to current COs and recognizes those COs who act “above and beyond the call of duty” in extreme or dangerous situations.

Donate here or by mailing a check to:
CPO Foundation
P.O. Box 348390
Sacramento, CA 95834

Prison Phone Justice

prison phone

Prison phone calls cost much more than a non-prison phone call. This is in part due to a “commission” model that benefits large companies like Global Tel*Link, Securus, and Telmate, while leaving families with $15 bills for a phone call of a few minutes. Prison Phone Justice is an up-to-date and public collection of rates and kickbacks in the prison phone industry. Support their work to make prison phone calls – a documented necessity in keeping family ties strong during incarceration – affordable for both family and their incarcerated loved ones.


  • Posted Monday, November 14, 2016

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According to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are roughly 180,000 veterans in jail or prison in the US every year, or roughly 8% of the total population behind bars.  More than three-quarters of these men and women received “an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions” from the service.

On this Veterans Day, let’s look at the ways in which correctional agencies can attempt to deal with the specific needs of incarcerated former service members in a way that makes them most likely to succeed on release.

What differentiates them from the general population?

  • They are older, by between 11 years for jail and 12 years for prison
  • They skew more heavily white than the general population of jails and prisons
  • A larger proportion of them were incarcerated for property, drug, and DUI/DWI offences than the general population
  • Roughly twice the proportion of veterans had been told at some point by a mental health professional that they had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • They are more likely to have been convicted of a violent offense
  • They had fewer prior arrests, on average, than the general population

A recent study has suggested that those veterans of the recent wars who “struggle with anger and emotional outbursts of combat trauma are more than twice as likely as other veterans to be arrested for criminal misbehavior …”  It is not just PTSD, but other conditions such as the nature of their upbringing, their current living arrangements, or their substance abuse history that, together, puts some veterans at risk of offending.

Incarcerating these veterans may just be a way to give them the help that they need to deal with PTSD and substance issues, in a manner that is tailored for their experience.  The veterans’ pod in the San Diego County Jail is a good example of this.  Incarceration gives the Veterans Administration a second chance to treat those who may have fallen through the cracks.

“’Our goal is not to end incarceration among veterans,’ Sean Clark, national coordinator for Veterans Justice Outreach at the VA.  ‘What we’re trying to do is ensure that when veterans do have contact with the criminal justice system, that there are effectively off ramps, into needed treatment.’”

This VA programming behind bars is linked seamlessly to re-entry planning, including housing and continued treatment.

American Prison Data Systems, PBC can augment this training by enabling the VA and other agencies to deliver targeted programming both behind bars and post-release.

  • Posted Thursday, September 8, 2016

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American Prison Data Systems Honored as Best for Customers, Creating Most Overall Positive Customer Impact Evaluated by Comprehensive B Impact Assessment

Today, American Prison Data Systems, PBC was recognized for creating the most positive overall customer impact by B the Change Media based on an independent, comprehensive assessment administered by the independent nonprofit B Lab. Honorees are featured in the upcoming fall issue of B Magazine and on B the Change’s digital platform, bthechange.com. We will also be honored tonight at the first-annual Best for the World Celebration & Awards Ceremony at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas Business School.

American Prison Data Systems, PBC is honored in the Best for Customers list, which includes businesses that earned a Customer score in the top 10 percent of more than 1,800 Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment. The full assessment measures a company’s impact on its workers, community, customers and environment. The 134 winning companies in the Customer category come from 14 industries and 22 countries.

The Customer portion of the B Impact Assessment measures the impact a company has on its customers by focusing on whether a company sells products or services that promote public benefit and if those products/services are targeted toward serving underserved populations. It measures whether a company’s product or service is designed to solve a social or environmental issue. Honorees scoring in the top 10 percent set a gold standard for the high impact that business as a force for good can make on customers around the world.

The 134 Best for Customers companies come from 120 different industries, such as manufacturing, financial services and engineering. B the Change Media simultaneously released separate lists recognizing B Corporations as Best for the World (overall impact), Best for the Environment, Best for Workers and Best for Community, which can be found at http://best.bthechange.com.

Additional 2016 Best for Customers honorees include: Revolution Foods; Warby Parker; and AltSchool.

“The companies we are honoring as the best for the world represent the cutting edge of a global movement using business as a force for good. We are inspired by them, and feel deeply honored to join them in this historic and ground-breaking celebration,” said Bryan Welch, CEO of B the Change Media, the multiplatform media company that publishes the quarterly B Magazine and host of the Best for the World event at the University of California, Berkeley, on September 8, 2016.

A total of 515 Certified B Corporations were named 2016 Best For the World Honorees, including: The Honest Company; Cooperative Home Care Associates; and Traditional Medicinals. Thirty-five countries are represented, including Afghanistan, Kenya, Vietnam and Turkey. The selection criteria for Best for the World honorees are available at http://bit.ly/29ZYRSp.

The 2016 Best for the World Honorees represent nearly one-third of all B Corps, displaying a wide range of excellence throughout the community. Today there are more than 1,800 Certified B Corporations across over 120 industries and 42 countries, unified by one common goal: to redefine success in business. Any company can measure and manage social and environmental performance at http://bimpactassessment.net.


American Prison Data Systems (APDS) is a NYC-based Public Benefits Corporation and Certified B Corp, with the mission of making correctional facilities cheaper, safer, and far more effective at reducing recidivism. APDS offers a full-stack, custom mobile tablet solution to bring secure, best-in-class online education, job training, mental health, virtual classroom, library, communications and other rehabilitative resources to incarcerated individuals. APDS has been safely deployed in prisons, jails, probation, and alternative-to-incarceration programs around the country since mid-2014, and has served over three million hours of programming to tablet users. Learn more about APDS at APDSCorporate.com.

B the Change Media was formed as a partnership between B Lab, the community of B Corporations, and Bryan Welch, former CEO of Ogden Publications (B Corp since 2010). B the Change Media is a multiplatform media company whose mission is to build the world’s largest engaged audience of people with a passion for using business as a force for good. B the Change Media has editorial and operating independence and covers compelling stories about business as a force for good, not just stories about B Corporations. B the Change Media has independent investors and is a subsidiary of B Lab, the nonprofit organization that administers the Impact Assessment and aggregates the B Corporation community. B the Change Media is a Pending B Corporation.

For more information, visit http://www.bthechange.com.

B Lab is a nonprofit organization that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good.  Its vision is that one day all companies compete not only to be the best in the world, but the best for the world and society will enjoy prosperity for all for the long term.

B Lab drives this systemic change by: 1) building a community of Certified B Corporations to make it easier for all of us to tell the difference between “good companies” and good marketing; 2) passing benefit corporation legislation to give business leaders the freedom to create value for society as well as shareholders; 3) helping businesses measure, compare and improve their social and environmental performance with the free B Impact Assessment; 4) driving capital to impact investments through use of its B Analytics and GIIRS Ratings platform.

For more information, visit www.bcorporation.net.

  • Posted Tuesday, September 6, 2016

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Teachers and Technology in Correctional Facilities

With summer coming to an end and school starting up again across the country, there is no shortage of articles about the difficult work performed daily by educators in America’s schools. And for good reason; their job is very demanding. Even by those standards, though, the subset of teachers who work in correctional facilities face uniquely challenging conditions.

Western and Pettit have compiled some interesting statistics about the incarceration of the uneducated in the United States. At any given moment, one out of every eight high school dropouts is behind bars, including 37% of African-American dropouts.  The chance that someone without a high school diploma or its equivalent ends up behind bars is extremely high.  White dropouts have a 28% chance of ending up incarcerated at least once during their lifetimes, compared to 68% for African-Americans and 20% for Latinos.


Compared to typical schools, students who are incarcerated are more likely to be below grade level in basic skills, have a learning disability, and struggle with mental health issues (The Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2015).

In correctional conditions, where the population consists of reluctant learners and those with various types of learning and behavioral issues, it is critical to deliver the tools that have been proven to be essential and necessary in non-correctional settings, tailored for the problems of learning (and living) behind bars.  The environment itself leads to a lack of consistency.  Lockdowns or other events can disrupt class, for example.  Programming resources are stretched.

Correctional students often dropped out of traditional education because of learning disabilities and behavioral issues, typically compounded by difficulties in their personal lives.  Their exacting circumstances required individualized attention and the application of tools designed to address these complex pedagogical needs specifically.  Without access to these, the reluctant learners fell through the cracks of the system and descended into criminal activity.

As adult learners taking secondary school programming, they may find themselves insecure and rusty when it comes to their study skills, unmotivated or unable to concentrate.

As adult learners behind bars, they may face further challenges to their ability to concentrate and to apply time on task, including time outside of the classroom.  They require individual coaching in order to stay on track, time and attention that is difficult to come by when educational and programming resources are spread thin.  And, perhaps most importantly, they require ongoing reasons for completing the program.

For those who think that deploying just any content or content that has not been designed, tested, and proven as the pedagogical best-of-breed with a “just-as-good” type of homegrown solution, putting technology into the hands of inmates may be counterproductive.  It can also be counterproductive if the vendor thinks that technology can be used to replace or minimize the role of the teacher.

In order to maximize their chances for success, incarcerated learners require an individualized educational plan that addresses their myriad hurdles:

 Differentiated instruction helps teachers design individualized education programs that focus on the student’s weaknesses with “extra practice, step-by-step directions, and special homework”

•  Chunking of learning tasks into manageable blocks (tailored for the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses) that make the student more engaged with the material

•  Scaffolding in which teachers form a “bridge between what students already know and what they cannot do on their own … Teachers often use this method by presenting a model of high-quality work before asking students to work on their own.”

•  Direct, private student-to-teacher communications channels gives the teachers and students a way to discuss issues as soon as they arise, or to focus the individualized education program iteratively, all away from the eyes of other inmates whose observation may distort the quality of this interaction

•  Behavioral incentives will help to motivate these reluctant learners when tied directly to achieving delineated learning objectives

For those who think that deploying just any content or content that has not been designed, tested, and proven as the pedagogical best-of-breed with a “just-as-good” type of homegrown solution, putting technology into the hands of inmates may be counterproductive.  It can also be counterproductive if the vendor thinks that technology can be used to replace or minimize the role of the teacher.

Without the proper coaching and the proper path, merely putting any one-size-fits-all educational content on reluctant learners in a difficult environment is setting them up to fail, with all of the confidence-destroying implications that implies.

Technology can certainly be transformational in a student’s education, but it cannot replace the personal, human connections that only a teacher can foster, or the ability to inspire higher levels of achievement (Owlcation, 2012). Having someone to whom they can talk, ask questions, and look for an example will always be a necessary resource for successful students.

American Prison Data Systems firmly believes that applying the best tools and techniques for educating men and women who could not complete their high school diplomas in the normal course and who now live behind bars (with all of the attendant difficulties this situation poses for learning) is a necessary requirement for any correctional system in assessing any educational solution.

APDS also firmly believes that whatever technology solution the facility adopts must be integrated with the work of the teaching staff in order to have maximum effect.

  • Posted Friday, September 2, 2016

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APDS Celebrates Three Years as a Public Benefit Corporation

This month marks the three-year anniversary of American Prison Data Systems as a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). On August 1st, 2013, the State of Delaware added a subchapter to its General Corporation Law allowing companies to convert to a PBC and take into account the social purpose of their actions beyond traditional corporate goals of maximizing profit for shareholders. More specifically, companies are required to state a specific public benefit that has a positive effect on one or more categories of persons, entities, communities or interests beyond its stockholders.

Shortly after this declaration, APDS filed to become the first ever Delaware PBC. In doing so, CEO Christopher Grewe stated his desire to address the lack of safe and effective means of providing educational content to incarcerated learners, which he believed was key to turning lives around and reducing rates of recidivism. APDS has dedicated the last four years to developing proprietary and delivery technology that provides high quality, one-to-one adaptive programming, both educational and rehabilitative. The State of Delaware recognized Grewe’s efforts and awarded APDS the prestigious designation in August, 2013.

APDS remains one of the few vendors that entered the correctional education space motivated by the desire to achieve social good, and we are proud to say this has remained of utmost importance three years later. The company’s highly specialized tablet technology has been used by inmates for over three million hours, with thousands of educational and rehabilitative videos, lessons and courses completed. Customer feedback has been universally positive and facilities using APDS tablets are reporting improvements in safety, educational attainment, and high levels of engagement with content. It is APDS’ ultimate hope that our efforts will result in lower rates of recidivism for years to come.

Read here for more information and a full description on how to become a PBC.

  • Posted Friday, August 26, 2016

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Justice Department deems mandatory fixed bail unconstitutional

Directly following the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) announcement suspending the use of private prisons, the DOJ deemed the ability to hold defendants in jail because they can’t afford bail as unconstitutional. The decision has been hailed a huge victory in bail reform for Criminal Justice Advocates.

The court filing came in the case of a Georgia man who was kept in jail for six nights after police arrested him for misdemeanor charges due to his inability to pay the fixed bail amount of $160. DOJ civil rights lawyers argued that courts must consider a person’s ability to pay and look at other ways of guaranteeing an appearance in court.

The court filing was the first time the government has taken such a position before a federal appeals court, and the latest step by the Obama administration in encouraging state courts to move away from imposing fixed cash bail amounts and jailing those who can’t pay.

Rather, “pretrial liberty must be the norm and detention prior to trial the carefully limited exception.” Those arrested on misdemeanor offenses should be released on their own recognizance, and other changes in post-arrest procedures must be made, such as the effective use of pretrial services.

APDS believes in a fair and equitable criminal justice system that does not discriminately punish based on indigence. We are deeply gratified to see that the US Department of Justice has come to the same conclusion, and applaud the decision based on democratic principle alone.

Read the Justice Department’s fixed-bail briefing here

  • Posted Thursday, August 25, 2016

  • Filed Under


Justice Department announces plan to end the use of Private Prisons

Private prisons are both less safe and less effective than those run by the government. That’s the message from a memo released on August 18th by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote.

“I am directing that, as each contract reaches the end of its term, the Bureau should either decline to renew that contract or substantially reduce its scope,” she continued.

Bureau of Prison inmate population in private facilities is already expected to drop to less than 14,200 by May 1, 2017, with a larger declined possible based on actions taken after this memo’s release.

With our focus on programming and truly educational tablet systems, American Prison Data Systems applauds this announcement. The reality is that, though private prisons only hold between 5-8% of America’s prison population, inmates in those facilities are routinely underserved when it comes to programming, education, healthcare and more.

In the past, APDS has not worked within the private prison system. A balance sheet may show education and programming as expensive, but the truth is that offering inmates a chance at improving themselves while incarcerated is a reinvestment in our society as a whole. And we hold up our state and local jail and prison clients as members of the correctional space that see the value in education and programming.

Read the full memo from Deputy Attorney Yates here.