Every prisoner in NSW currently has access to a tablet with some features. To understand what is happening we have conducted research and published it below. Please give us feedback about what you know and we will update the record and negotiate with the Government about improving the services.
Read below and provide feedback on this link – https://forms.gle/Gk8m4aVJizxAJmvd8
Functionality – Physical properties
- The tablet is an android, 08 inch Model TG801 with which a charger has been provided to keep in cells as the tablets are to remain in cell at all time . In Public jails the tablets are taken away in the mornings, charged and returned to the prisoner in the evening. This differs from Clarence run by SERCO which has a charger and a keyboard which remains in the cell.
- The only thing we have in cell is the tablet which 1) has no access to typing, cannot type on it; 2) cannot use any software such as office software such as Microsoft; 3) cannot save anything; 4) have no email; 5) no letters or photos from outside go on them, except at Clarence.
- One inmate has reported they applied 17 times for a tablet via the Requests App since 24/10/22, & submitted 21 grievances via Grievences APP since 02/03/23.
- Tablets are only available for inmates to use in cells from 14:00. Although inmates are allowed to keep their tablets overnight, the batteries die around 21:00 and no electiric outlets or chargers are provided.
- Tablets lack basic functions; no typing is possible and e-mails can not be sent through them.
- Technical problems persist, which can result in conflicts among inmates. For instance, we are informed that inmates are required to put in their MINs and PINs into the ‘Kiosk’ app, which is essential for life in prison. However, hostile inmates can easily abuse the security feature of the application and lock other inmates out of the system, effectively rendering those affected inmates’ life in prison unliveable.
- ‘Terms and Conditions’ on the inmates’ tablets, inmates are forced to agree to ‘American Laws/Terms and Conditions, as they are copied and posted onto the Australian technology system.
Features – Services available
- To utilise entertainment features, inmates have to pay a subscription fee as high as $38 per month, only to get access to an extremely restricted pool of movies, music, and games while e-books and audiobooks are in a separate subscription. These features are unaffordable for inmates to satisfy their basic needs for entertainment as they cannot work in prison or only be paid at a subminimum wage rate.
- The services available are music, movies, games, e-books and a web browser which all come in varying “packages” up to a cost of $38/ month for 14000 mins or $6.6 for 32400 mins for e-books. There is also a tv app for a weekly/monthly cost. (Goulburn Jail)
- Tablets soon to receive entertainment packs, however the cost for an inmate to purchase the entertainment pack on their tablets is $39 a month.
- Tablet Media price list charges for a 13 inch Clearvue TVs at $337.49 that wouldn’t be worth more than $80 to NSWCS for a barely functioning service. Shortland CC has stopped TV purchase or access is unfair as ‘exorbidant profit’ for monthly features. ‘Surprising amount of kids movies’ in the 410 movies, very few MA and no R rated, mostly made within 8 yrs. 270 Ebooks and 360 audiobooks are all modern authors, and mainly the paid service is for ‘what people have access to, often at no cost’. Media package allows a set time period and hours e.g. 11,000 minutes for 31 days that should be 44,640 minutes, the lowest limit is 7,500 for 5.2 days. Entertainment Bundle 1 is $35 for 31 days, with an 11,000 minute limit for movies and music. Entertainment Bundle 2 is $38 for 31 days with 14,000 minute limit or $8 for 1 day with 1,080 limit for movies, music & games. Movie Pass is $25 for 31 days with 7,500 limit or $4 for a day with 1,080 limit. $20 Movie Pass for 31 days with 1,080 limit. $6 Games pass for ‘extremely basic and embarrassing’ by most basic standards with a 7,500 limit or $1 a day with 1,080 limit. Live TV is $2,52 for 31 days with a 32,400 limit – not a huge cost but it should be free, and TV’s are being phased out. E-books are $6.60 for 31 days with a 32,400 limit.
- The tablets we’ve been issued have very limited access to the internet. We can view some parts of the ABC website, but no audio or video. (Goulburn CC)
- The sites available on the browser are limited to the ABC, ADIS, BBC, Legal Aid info, Aboriginal services. ABC is highly restricted. There is no search, no photos within news articles or videos, there is no acces to ivew or radio. BBC is a lot better as we have radio and podcasts, sports etc. There is no SBS, 9Now, 7t access though the majority of inmates would pay for any access. (Goulburn jail).
- No live TV transmissions in tablet – promise to be returned, but has since not (Goulburn CC)
- No access to the BBC website. Restricted to movie and music which is provided by the corrected service provider – this is expensive (Goulburn CC)
- Recently we had “BBC World Service” on our extremely limited internet. It had music, podcasts, documentaries and News. It was great but DCS NSW terminated the service for “Security Reasons”. (Lithgow CC)
- ABC News has no audio and video, they are restricted. DCS NSW “Media Unit” needs to explain their “ security reasons”. We can’t even use the search bar on ABC News 24 to search for news. Recently had the “Daily telegraph” and “BBC Skillswise” but they were deleted by DCS NSW for “security issues” (Lithgow CC).
- We are 100% officially BANNED from typing or sending photocopies to Justice Action.
- You should ask to enter a jail, see a tablet and its functions. See computers in cells. Ask for a list of inmates doing “digital” study in cells. Zero. Zero. Zero.
- The tablets do not offer any word processing or other such programs in which to type up assignments or any printing functions.
- Recent digital survey on tablet systems with regards to voting access. The DCS NSW does nothing to recognise or encourage any provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Lithgow CC)
- I have also discovered that the Supreme Court of NSW website, which was available since the rollmewnt of the tablet devices has now been blocked.
- Zero computer access in cells. Requests for computer access in cells have been refused 4 times by management at Lithgow CC.
- “I know of NO circumstance where inmates have computer access in cells or wings state wide, for education programs or learning (Lithgow CC)
- Computer access in cells and wings does not exist statewide. Finally got a “read only” blue computer in the wing to use on weekends to watch university lectures but cannot type or save on it.
- ‘What a surprise it was to read your suggestion that I ask for a computer in my cell. I had no idea that was a possibility’. (Goulburn CC)
- I requested to purchase a laptop to be purchased from my finances, this request was denied stating that ‘it is not in the DCS NSW Policy for a prisoner to have a computer in their cell’. ( Lithgow CC)
- An inmate was banned from computer use when he typed a letter to Justice Action from the education dept computers saying the letter was legal work.
- Macquarie & Hunter “dorm” jails have networked “green” computers in dorms for education. Federal remand only prisoners and some very, very few remand only state prisoners get issued a police laptop that has their brief downloaded onto it but it is “read only”, no typing, no saving nor amending anything (Lithgow CC).
Features – Services available
- Access is very restricted:
- Log onto ‘Getting Out’ system with a MIN number, getting photo taken, and PIN number for access to jail phones, select Entertainment package with free section option to make calls between 3pm and 10 pm; or read Facility Messages/notices, or select free games or a Learning Development APP (with a large list of pdfs & a few short videos, many religious content, drug and health information) from Standard Free Profile.
- The ‘web browser’ opens about 10 websites including ABC News, Legal & Aboriginal Aid, Hepatitis NSW, ADI’s, ‘E-Forms’ section to electronically lodge ‘Requests’ and ‘Grievances’, and the CSNSW website for offence-related programs. Pictures, videos, podcasts, text boxed link to external content eg LifeLine and beyond Blue that are blocked or missing. ‘Free to Air TV’ is to be available on tablets – for $2.53 per month.
- The CSNSW ‘Kiosk’ site and Legal Aid website were blocked for upgrade.
- Ther is no way to access any online counsellling or similar services, and most settings are blocked. We are not eligible for Remand Addictions and Domestic Violence courses until we are sentenced and know which jail to be sent to. Most inmates are refusing assessment, thus education staff are not meeting their KPI’s.
- I have a DCS NSW “Blue Computer” which is “read only” in the wing office, in a small room. I can only use it to watch lectures and cannot save or type anything. I can access Microsoft Word and Excel but cannot access any fields. So I can only watch my lectures. This is very frustrating as I cannot type or save my assessments or engage with accounting sheets on Microsoft Excel as part of my degree. (Lithgow CC)
- Inmates lack technological literacy and little to no assistance is offered
- NSW DCS policy is to provide users with a ‘Welcome to Tablet’ page on their tablet and to seek help from other inmates on how to use it
- Photocopying is highly restricted. (Mid North Coast CC)
- Audio books don’t function properly – times out after few minutes and requires inmate to constantly touch device ( Lithgow CC)
- CSNSW has deliberately blocked all lawyers links such as NSW Legislation, Austlii, NCAT decisions, the anti- discrimination links including the toolkit. CSNSW state that these links create security issues.(Mid North Coast CC)
- Our “In – cell Tablets” have no keyboard attachment and everything is limited and restricted. ( lithgow CC)
- Headphones are supplied, and some knock off “Samsung” headphones were offered as a special sale for $15 (Goulburn jail)
An interactive ‘kiosk’ is a computer terminal in the wing or pod that provides access to information and applications for communication, commerce, entertainment or education.
- There is a MAJOR security issue causing fight and violence due to a security feature on the inmate “Kiosk” app (2/11/2023)
- To explain, inmates need to put their MIN & PIN in to access and if they put the wrong PIN 3 times then the kiosk is locked and only staff can manually un-lock it in the office. So that ANY inmate, in ANY jail, at ANY time, using ANY random tablet can lock out ANY other inmate’s tablet they do not like by putting their MIN wrong PIN 3 times, stopping use of a lot of tablet functions hundreds of inmates as it is easy to know other inmates’ MIN. ‘It has become a nightmare but the local staff don’t care. This CHRONIC SECURITY BUG must be fixed ASAP’ (Lithgow CC).
- Each prisoner is charged $2.60 for each legal call (Lithgow CC)
- Phone calls are ‘stupidly expensive’ at $2.60 for 10 min calls. Expects is to limit data loads, that will unfairly affect inmates that behave themselves.
- Average cost for 15 minute mobile call cost is $3.75 so for 14,000 inmates doing a call a day, that will earn the DCS monopoly $19,162,500 pa.
- No contact with family as it costs money $250 to $300 to talk to family members. No money , no contact with families. (Lithgow CC)
- Another $300 a month for imate phone calls.
- There is no privacy, staff listen to all the conversations (Lithgow CC)
- Calls won’t be made cheaper stated by the Governor at Lithgow CC.
- Prices charged in prisons by the telecommunication providers are illegal. It is in breach of the Australian Consumer Law (Lithgow CC).
- Currently, there are class action suits for human rights violations against various state DCS’s including WA, NT and ACT.
- The current provider of phone and tablet services for DCS NSW has been banned from operating in many US States including California and Arkansas. GTL, Ericom and Telemate all collide and are dubious companies (Lithgow cc )
- GTL or whoever provides the subscription movies and music for $38 a month got upset when a few inmates complained that “BBC Skill Wise / World service” was taking their money. So, DCS NSW terminated it to force inmates to pay for music/ documentaries instead of giving it out for free. This is horrendous as it is exploiting the poor prison population. (Lithgow CC)
- No longer allowed to use engine numbers on the Offender Telephone System.
- Engine numbers are typically $0.30 a call, whereas a call to a mobile service on the OTS costs $2.60 for 10 minutes. They say this is a security risk. It seems CSNSW is lying about this… It must be a cash grab… (Goulburn CC)
- Authorities have advised that all 25 cent ‘engine’ numbers are to be eliminated and taken off the jail phone cell as they are a ‘security issue’. Thousands of inmates statewide use engine numbers to save money and only pay 25 cents for a local call. With the termination of these numbers, inmates, who are on a $15 per week allowance, are now forced to pay $2.80 for a mobile phone call that will only last for 10 minutes (Lithgow CC)
- No email access (Lithgow CC)
- Cannot use email or voicecall on in-cell tablets
- Inmates are forced to pay expensive phone plans to call their families and lawyers
- Can buy pre-paid envelopes but cannot seal the envelope before handing it over to the officer in charge. This is not fair as the officers in charge can read the contents of the letter.
- Poor people cannot afford to write to their families or lawyers as everything has to be purchased , let it be an envelope or a signed General Purchase order.
- My letter to Coffs Harbour Local Court has been intercepted with no reply, as I had requested to file a statement of claim, all these are done by CSNSW to avoid litigation. (Mid North Coast CC)
Access differences – classification
What part of the prison population you are determines what access you get. A, B, or C computer access varies depending on the prisoner security/protection classification:
- Main jail population (no protection needed); Special Management Area Placement (SMAP), and non-association. The A classification SMAP inmate gets ‘much less access to all education, and ‘disproportionately favour’ is to ‘main inmates’. Access for SMAP inmates to working computers was so difficult that Maximum security or for inmates with 8 years in; B classification is for 5-8 years is medium security; and C classification is less than 5 years, as minimum security. Hunter Valley is an education hub – ‘I believe this education hub has failed, and will not be funded again’.
Hunter Correctional Centre
- In the Hunter CC, helping maximum security inmates to undertake university qualification, known as the Rethinking Distance Education Scheme
- The scheme was launched in 2022, and saw 15 inmates enrol and undertake qualifications with universities like Curtin University and Southern Queensland university
- This scheme has equipped the inmates with many skills such as support and assistance, independent learning, time management and also lets them experience university education by mirroring external study practices
- Hunter CC has challenged the traditional paper based study system by using Computers on Wheels, wherein the inmates are given a securly designed laptop to use in their pods. DSC claims that changing behaviour is key to reducing reoffending and education plays a big part in it
Other Public Prisons
- Zero Encouragement and very little of any resource. (Lithgow CC)
- No standardised policies regarding inmates’ right to access education; mental health, language mail is a big zero, as are video calls, messaging, etc.
- No books, magazines or any educational or religious materials can be sent by inmates or received on behalf of the inmates at all.
- Many prisons have no access to libraries. Books and magazines cannot be sent in Goulburn, Long Bay and Bathurst prisons. They lie when they say we have access to these services. ( Lithgow cc)
- Access to buy a world map was refused as it could pose a security threat.
- Zero education access
- I have been ‘denied any education at Lithgow CC’, trying to enrol in numerous courses including through Curtin University, and it feels that education staff are actively discriminating against me for any education
- Also, cessation of the only two courses that an inmate wanted to study: the RUSH program was completely cancelled where an inmate only had 18 hours to be credited and he was disallowed to continue a Digital Literacy Course.
- There is a high interest to rehabilitate through education, yet Goulburn has no system for sentenced inmates and higher education – despite the obligation stated in the Inmate Hand Booklet and recidivism at an ‘all-time high’.
- A lot of my course materials and assessments are through Word and Excel, which I have access to “read only” version. If I had a proper computer I could work all weekend, as education is closed on weekends starting from friday. (Lithgow CC)
- With no Internet access, inmates who wish to pursue a degree are barred from any research and online resources.
- The lack of access to education courses reinforces the discrimination of self. Our brains are not stimulated. Our conversations are mundane. We become trapped in our minds. Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues grip our souls. Access to mental health professionals is scarce, so we suffer alone.
- Unlike previously, in the last 19 months at Lithgow, ‘I have been actively excluded and prevented from taking part in or completing any educational or criminogenic program and refused any employment positions’ (librarian or wing sweeper). For the 10th time, I was refused access to the education building, and myself and my family are again‘locked in a battle to get access to computers to undertake my legal studies. When I complain, it is assumed to be fabricated such as the 8 unresponded to requests since 24/10/22 via the digital Request and Grievences.
- I am currently enrolled with Curtin University studying Bachelor of Business Administration, majoring in Social Leadership and business ethics, this being the scene, it is vital to have daily computer access.
- I highly recommend Curtin Uni’s Prison Outreach.
- While still enrolled, SCU had dropped me as they cannot facilitate an inmate without a computer or internet, and got no response by Hunter CC governor. I help others chase education. There is one green computer in the library that won’t be replaced as it was broken. Yet to see online counselling or higher education law or psych options.
- Monthly buy up costs at Lithgow CC for monthly newspaper and magazines costs $30 , monthly bonus art supplies costs $20, $38 for monthly subscription of services for the tablet, $112 a month for phone calls to family members, along with other costs comes up to $840 a month. However, the weekly pay per inmate who works is $15.5 and approximately $162 a month, which is nowhere close to what is required to live comfortably in the prison.
- I was a Peer Tutor elsewhere, but at my current CC I was vetoed as a security risk, and getting photocopied materials is continuously refused by the staff here. Staff refuse issuing register-numbers or throw forms away, but the Grievances App doesn’t work when you click it. There is no internet access to jail computers, so I rely on my family to get AEVTI course information. The BBC website was removed to force people to buy Entertainment Packs, and are barriers to access to Discman.
- The system keeps these men voiceless by keeping them illiterate and uneducated of anything including their entitlements.
Community Justice Coalition for Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW)
- Mindspot was concluded to be not suitable for whitelisting due to the sharing of health information and the suitability of the content for people in custody.
- CSNSW is continuing to identify other mental health support suppliers to deliver a similar service and is also developing policy and procedure for psychology support through external services
- CSNSW has commenced work on the Research and Evaluation Strategy for the transformation of prisoner rehabilitation through digital technology
- This strategy was informed by inmates with lived experience and identifies potential research and pilots of evidence-based digital interventions for mental health support by CSNSW
- However, prisoners reported receiving no psychology support
- 99% of the released prisoners have nothing. No real rehabilitation in NSW. It is truly abysmal that so many inmates do nothing in jail and leave empty handed. (Lithgow CC)
Accessing Legal Resources
- Austlii remains a restricted resource thus not allowing inmates to access case law. This is due to undisclosed “security and inmate safety issues” (Letter dated 05/12/23 by CSNSW to CJC)
- Inmates have a right to know the law, especially those pertinent to one’s case – case law can include valuable precedents which may aid one’s legal case
- Open justice is a fundamental principle underlying one’s legal rights – restricting access to case law takes away this very principle. Our legal system is founded on the notion that one can view ‘justice in action’ through the courts, however, restricting access to Austlii takes away from this.
Legal Aid NSW website
- Only part of the Legal Aid NSW website is accessible on offender tablets for use in cells. Otherwise, Legal Aid remains largely hidden from inmates.
- Static legal content is available on the legal information portal via the desktop offender access computer. What about red/green computers? A Project is currently progressing to migrate this portal access to the offender tablets.
The Arts Law Centre
- Support for this centre that successfully lobbied and installed tablets in cells just recently.
- A library attendant brings a headful of books to the unit from time to time and leaves them in a box for attendants to access. There’s no such thing as choosing a catelogue off a shelf (Goulburn CC)
- Most prisons ban books and magazines to be sent in. (Lithgow cc)
- Battling to get regular computer access, & kicked out of the computer room –
- because supervising us to do legal work will not allow them to meet their KPI’s.
CSNSW issued a statement in their letter dated 05/12/23 to CJC that they are reviewing requests to whitelist websites on application from service providers and are developing a manual for service providers who wish to have their content available and accessible for inmates on the offender tablets.