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Computers have had a profound impact on society in recent decades – not only in the workplace but also in homes, schools and the public arena. The benefits of computers are invaluable to prisoners, providing a means to access online education, counselling and legal services. Whilst computers are readily available and widely used by the public, prisoners have not been afforded the same level of access to computers, often due to misinformed security concerns and the ignorance of prison administrators.
Many prisoners spend up to 18 hours locked in their cells every day. As Justice Action has proposed, having computers in cells would safely and securely help to maximise productivity during the 18 hours prisoners spend in isolation, provide trusted counsellors through external providers, allow for the stability of service providers throughout the sentence and after release and encourage empowerment and self-management.
Prisoners, teachers, government bodies and enforcement agencies all agree on the need for education within the prison system. They recognise that education is instrumental to the successful rehabilitation of prisoners, contributing to the reduction in rates of recidivism.
Since 1998, Justice Action have been advocating for the placement of computers into prison cells, as allowing prisoners access to computers inside their cells provides an opportunity to access online counselling, legal and educational services. Over the past 19 years, JA has submitted a number of detailed proposals to the NSW government with regards to the benefits of computers in cells. Despite overwhelming evidence in support of computers in cells programs, the NSW government has repeatedly dragged its feet on the adoption of the computers in cells program, citing funding restrictions as the excuse for this lack of initiative. View the complete timeline here.
Counselling is an effective method of changing people’s behaviour. The use of computers in prisons is a fantastic means to facilitate counselling through Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is widely accepted as facilitating positive and long-lasting changes in offenders’ behaviour. Research has shown that when offered online, CBT is more effective than face-to-face therapy. This makes online counselling especially appropriate for the prison environment where physical and confidentiality obstacles can be overcome with technology. Read more
Computer access can provide prisoners with legal resources that may assist with their cases. It can enable prisoners to read and respond to briefs, read legislation, create documents and access transcripts and other important information and databases. Without this access, the right to a fair trial under the rule of law may be impeaded. Tony Liristis is a compelling case for these points. Read more about his case and online legal services here
The most important aspect of this scheme is that it encourages prisoner education. Computers, to a far greater extent than any previously available resource, allow prisoners to successfully move towards a TAFE or university qualification, and do so in a far more user-friendly method than any prison library or occasional prison educational course. Read more