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Well, here we are finding ourselves in a bit of a dilemma. We can neither condone nor condemn an idea that's been floated to address a statewide problem.

This time, it's with respect to Bryan Stirling's proposal to give prison inmates tablets. No, not pills. The head of the state Department of Corrections is talking about combatting the issue of illegal cellphones getting into inmates' hands by putting a tablet computer in their hands.

Like many, including those who read and commented on the story we posted on our website earlier this month, we had a WTH — what the heck — reaction. Solve the illegal cellphone problem by giving them a device they can use in multiple ways, to include having contact with family? Really? How will that solve the problem? And wouldn't a tablet also become a ready-made weapon in the hands of some inmates, we wondered.

We have opted to take a deep breath — for now — and see this idea play out, if it does. Gov. Henry McMaster already gave Stirling the state credit card, telling him to hire whoever he needs and at whatever price he deems necessary, and Stirling has thus far appeared to be an able department head who is determined to rein in the many problems our prisons are experiencing, to include rioting, killings and the penetration of illegal contraband.

Stirling said the tablets would be monitored and mined for improper data, adding that inmates would not be able to use them to communicate with each other. Moreover, the company he would contract with to provide the tablets would face up to $2 million in fines in the event an inmate downloads material or hacks the system. The tablets would come with pre-loaded educational materials and, yes, entertainment, such as movies and music. As to the expense, taxpayers won't foot the bill for the devices. Stirling said inmates would pay themselves through a subscription plan.

Other states, including neighboring Georgia, have launched similar programs and praised their successes, so it's not a wholly new idea. Sure, it sounds far-fetched and illogical on the surface to many. And while prison should be punishment, it's ludicrous to deprive inmates of everything. They'll never re-enter society as productive citizens that way. Remember the biblical instruction about idle hands being the devil's workshop.

Those of us on the outside might do well to take a chill pill, give Stirling some room and see how this works, should he roll the tablets program out. If he does so, and if it fails miserably, we suspect Stirling will take a few tablets himself. With water.

This editorial is from the Index-Journal of Greenwood via The Associated Press.

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