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Computers in Cells: Maintaining Community Ties and Reducing Recidivism

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2011
12 pages
This paper proposes putting a computer in every prison cell in New South Wales (Australia), with attention to the benefits and concerns of such a policy.
Currently in New South Wales (NSW), there is no provision for having computers in individual cells. Correctional Centers provide shared classrooms where inmates may access computers for a limited number of hours under supervision, but only after submitting an Offender Application for Access to Computers," and they must agree to the Guidelines for Offenders Using Computers. Managers are responsible for ensuring that desktop computers are used only for work, education, training, and/or legal research. This restricted use of computers by inmates is occurring while most university courses now require regular access to a computer. In addition, the Employment, Education, and Training References Committee notes that "it is becoming increasingly common for enrollment into courses to be conditional on having access to a computer and in some instances, to a modem as well, so that two-way communication will be possible." The proposal to have computers in all cells recognizes that this poses security issues and creates the public perception that leniency is being shown to inmates. Although these concerns are understandable, security issues are becoming increasingly addressed by advanced software such as Cybersource PrisonPC; and any image problems can be managed by showing how improving the education of prisoners helps to lower crime rates. Further, this policy model has already had some success in the Australian Commonwealth Territory, Victoria, and Norway. The features and outcomes of having greater inmate access to computers in these jurisdictions are reported. 30 references