The lack of access to technology for juveniles in detention centres has been said to be a “significant shortfall” in relation to prisoner education. While all jurisdictions officially mention the importance of education for youth offenders in detention, no jurisdiction has implemented computers in cells that would allow it to effectively happen. But it is much more than that. It lessens the social isolation using modern technology. Education is mandatory and teens are digital natives. It replaces passive TV watching. It gives them access to family, peers, external authorities, and counselling in a safe and efficient way. Furthermore, “more use needs to be made of diagnostically detailed individual learning plans linked to rehabilitation plans.”
Justice Action presented the following to the 6th National Juvenile Justice Summit:
Expert opinions on computers in cells:
Counselling using computers in cells allow the detainees to properly use the up to eighteen hours a day they spend in bored isolation. Furthermore, external providers of therapies generate greater trust and choice and provide a sense of stability through the detention and after release, and youth receive some empowerment and self-management through these services. Research also indicates that online counselling for inmates is actually more effective than face to face counselling, and it is relatively cheap.
The ACT adult system has had computers in cells with access to the internet through a safe server for the past nine years.
(See our adult computers in cells page)
The aim of the juvenile detention is supposed to be the rehabilitation of the juvenile offenders. A key part of this rehabilitation is education, which can be facilitated by the provision of computers into the cells of prisoners. Education of youth offenders also works to reduce rates of recidivism. It is now commonplace that most educational courses require access to a computer and this provides a significant barrier to education for detainees.
Our proposal is that providing detainees with computers in their cells would allow them easy access to education, counselling, legal resources and communication with family members and will decrease rates of recidivism. Access to computers is the “natural tool in relation to expanding access to various educational options outside prisons.” A safe server system costs only $230 000 for installation in a large prison.