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While you might not readily picture a prison as a hive of technology, in fact Australian correctional centres are leading the way in becoming digital environments.
Inmates are being taught literacy, numeracy and basic computer skills through specialised cloud software.[i] The software means they can move away from traditional paper-based learning to online training.
This more sophisticated learning environment is changing the approach to literacy, numeracy and life skills training. Research has found the use of gaming technology can improve the delivery of cognitive skills training used in rehabilitation programs. [ii]
Inmates can also use email communication, Skype and videoconferencing to communicate with approved contacts and for legal proceedings, family visitations and medical consultations. The state of New South Wales conducted 63 per cent of all court matters related to young people in custody through audio-visual technology in 2015-16.
Encouraging inmates to use digital technology has the added benefit of ensuring they acquire the type of basic digital skills that can increase their post-release chances of getting a job. This is all in line with the industry’s new rehabilitative model, which aims to improve inmates’ re-integration into society and reduce the rate of recidivism.
The use of digital technology is improving prison security too. For example, less physical mail reduces the chances of illicit items entering prisons. With a centralised cloud system, corrections staff can also check which websites inmates visited or who they communicated with and, where necessary, use keyword searches and analytics software to monitor offenders’ communications. Registered Training Organisations can also offer their educational programs more consistently and ensure they are compliant with the requirements of the industry.
In the light of such changes, it is crucial to have consistent regulations for the integration of technology in the Corrections industry. In addition, the existing and future workforce need training and skills in the safe and secure implementation of these technologies as well as monitoring the appropriate use of ICT. For more details regarding new challenges and opportunities in the Corrections industry, refer to the 2019 Corrections IRC Skills Forecast.
[ii] Kerr, A, and Willis, M. (2018). Trends and Issues in Criminal Justice: Prisoner Use of Information and Communications Technology. Australian Institute of Criminology. No. 560.