Most institutions provide some access to printing. As with every other aspect of these designs, we’re flexible and will support your choice. Here are the alternatives, listing in reverse order to the levels of customer satisfaction derived from each:

  1. No Printing As a matter of statute, one state argues that it has no obligation to supply printing to the inmates. However, a total lack of printing access may jam inmate access to the computer terminals. Inmates, if unable to print, are likely to spend a long time writing out what they need longhand. Inmate frustration with a lack of printing may create behavioral problems.
  2. Unlimited Printing Without some guidelines or restrictions on printing, inmates are free to print as much as they want, effectively recreating a book law library. Reams of paper and many print cartridges will be necessary for this approach.
  3. Selling Paper This approach appears simple, but is flawed. In this scenario, the printer normally has no paper in it: the inmate buys the sheets he or she needs, then inserts it to get his printout. However, with a network and cached print queues, it is difficult to know the inmate will get what he/she paid for, or someone else’s printout.
  4. Administrator Releases the Print Job The administrator can implement any policy in deciding what to print or not to print. That is, the administrator can shut off an inmate who abuses the privilege by printing too many pages. Or, the administrator can keep a ledger of charges incurred by inmate. This approach is labor intensive, however, and can put the administrator at odds with argumentative inmates.
  5. Print Vending The inmate decides what to print, sends the print job to a print release station, which is a secured computer next to the printer. Then, the inmate inserts a plastic mag-stripe card, similar to a credit card, into the card reader. The inmate clicks on the job he wants, it is printed and the cost of the printing is deducted from his account. While this approach is the most complex and expensive, it can help pay for itself, and certainly recoups the cost of paper and print cartridges. Over the long term, this system has made for the happiest institutions.