ACEA Conference

An Update on Computers in Cells

24 November 2021

On November 16th and 17th 2021, the online Australasian Corrections Education Association (ACEA) Conference promoted the benefit of technology in prisons and mental health facilities in making education more accessible. Although the Conference discussed access to shared computers and technology in general, the use of tablets in cells can also pose similar value. 

 

Victoria’s maximum security prison for mentally unwell offenders, Thomas Embling Hospital (Forensic Care), demonstrates some positive benefits arising from remote education, as classes moved online in April 2020 due to COVID-19. VET and academic subjects across many areas, including business, horticulture, visual arts and hospitality, are provided. This program has given the opportunity for detainees to gain digital literacy skills and is empowering them to ultimately reintegrate with society. Corrections Victoria has limited access to certain platforms, such as YouTube, and instead relies on Kaltura. This system provides five courses that include certificates in General Education for Adults, Foundational Skills, Business, ICT, and Occupational Health and Safety, with the potential for these options to expand in the future. The Conference noted that it is sustainable, cost-effective, and likely to be a prominent feature of Corrections education delivery in the next 5 to 10 years. This is incredibly empowering for prisoners to take charge of their future, develop skills and prepare to reintegrate with society.



The Conference also highlighted general shortcomings to the current introduction of tech within prisons to deliver education. Firstly, there is a greater need to incorporate lived experience in education in prisons. A traditional classroom setting isn’t sufficient and changes need to be made to accommodate the way prisoners want to learn to give them the greatest chance of success. Computers in cells may provide a solution to this issue. Secondly, the technology exists but isn’t being used to its full potential in prisons. Education officers have been employed to do part of the role in educating prisoners, but introduction of tablets allows greater self-sufficiency of inmates. Empowering inmates to be responsible for their education is key to delivering these programs efficiently and effectively. Another issue that the Conference featured was limited resources, such as shared computers and staff. But, placing computers in each cell would be able to address this, and would be instrumental in ensuring widespread and equal access to education.