APDS: Transforming Prisons into Learning Centers

APDS: Transforming Prisons into Learning Centers

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Harris Ferrell, CEO, APDSHarris Ferrell, CEO
Today, the United States spends $86 billion every year on a correctional system that is not working. We incarcerate our citizens at almost double the rate of any other developed country, and states spend 860 percent more on incarceration now than they did 30 years ago — but, still, the US correctional system does not prepare inmates for successful reentry into society. Ninety-five percent of people in prison will be released someday, but states rarely invest in their rehabilitation.

Finally, that mindset is beginning to shift.

Enter APDS, a public benefit corporation working to reduce this number dramatically by providing individualized education, rehabilitation, workforce training, and reentry support delivered via secure tablet computers inside of correctional facilities. For years, researchers have consistently found that recidivism rates are lower and employment outcomes are better when inmates have access to quality education, workforce preparation and rehabilitation. This program prepare inmates for successful re-entry into society, empower returning citizens to rebuild their communities by serving as possible role models and advocates, and creates safer prisons by disrupting the monotony and hopelessness that lead to violence.

APDS brings a revolutionary edtech solution designed specifically for corrections. APDS partners with correctional jurisdictions to map out a solution that fits their programmatic objectives and technology infrastructure. Prisons and jails face a myriad of challenges in delivering high-quality programming to everyone in their custody. They must balance security and custody constraints, facilities without wireless infrastructure, and program struggling to meet widely varying learning needs. APDS has built a solution that can be tailored to address each jurisdiction’s specific needs.

Every other technology provider working in corrections charges inmates, or inmates’ loved ones, to use their devices.

APDS takes a different approach. APDS charges departments of corrections — never students or their families — for their tools. Their approach is based on the premise that correctional education tools that charge students just further entrench inequity and disillusionment within prisons. For an educational solution to fulfill its promise, it must be accessible to everyone.

Harris Ferrell, CEO, APDS says, “We focus first and foremost on outcomes – how can our technology and services be used to improve educational attainment, rehabilitative progress, and workforce readiness for every incarcerated learner? Every decision we make concerning our platform serves our goal of maximizing learning. We are not trying to make money off of our students, which would detract from the work we do to build the highest quality learning experience we can. Our goal is to enable departments of corrections to transform their correctional facilities into education centers.”

Since its founding in 2014, APDS has worked to bring the highest quality personalized learning technologies, which have become standard fare in K-12 classrooms, into the correctional setting. The company designed secure tablet computers that could connect to its networked data center and provide students secure access to approved content. The APDS learning management platform is designed to assess the individual educational, rehabilitative, and workforce readiness needs of each learner. The APDS platform then crafts a personalized learning plan and tracks each learner’s progress through the content – measuring progress achieved and time on task to report back to on-site staff. Their data portal enables the jurisdiction to determine where their learners need more support, assess whether interventions are working, and recognize learners who commit themselves to their learning pathways. Learners, in turn, are able to earn digital credentials and certificates as they progress, plan for a post-release job search by building a resume and exploring career opportunities in their area, and prepare for major credentialing exams like the GED.

Today, with deployments 88 facilities across 17 states, APDS continues to expand its footprint. With significant investments in product development, the company plans to launch its next-generation learner portal later this spring, which will incorporate new best practices in creating an easily navigable, engaging user experience. “As more and more correctional facilities commit to offering high-quality educational options, incarcerated learners are proving that their success is worth investing in. As a society, we cannot afford to write off everyone in prison or jail. We cannot afford to miss out on that much potential. In providing incarcerated learners with educational opportunities, we’re working to finally shut down the correctional system’s revolving door,” concludes Ferrell.

Top 10 Corrections Solution Companies - 2020


New York, NY

Harris Ferrell, CEO

American Prison Data Systems is a public benefit corporation that provides incarcerated learners with digital tools that they need to succeed. The company puts incarcerated individuals and corrections officials at the center of its work by listening to their specific concerns and customizing the APDS solution accordingly. With the central aim to eliminate re-criminalization and exploitation, APDS doesn’t pass on the costs of learning and education to the inmates or their families. The primary focus of the company is to go beyond entertainment to provide technology and services that can be used to improve educational attainment, rehabilitative progress, and workforce readiness for every incarcerated learner.