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Justice Action Computers in Cells Maintaining Community Ties and Reducing Recidivism Feb 2011

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Computers in Cells
Maintaining community ties
and reducing recidivism

Table of Contents
1	

Introduction

2	

Current Situation  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 1

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1

2.1 	 Experiences of recent ex-prisoners.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 2
3	

Existing Examples of Expanded Computer Use  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 3

3.1 	 Metropolitan Remand Centre in Victoria  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 3
3.2 	 The Alexander Maconochie Centre in ACT

 .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

3

3.3 	 Skien High Security Prison  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 4
4	

Our Proposal  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 4
4.1 	 Supply

....................................................................................................

4.2 	 Software

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4.3 	 A system of personal responsibility
5	

4
5

Concerns  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 6
..................................................................................................

6

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6

5.1 	 Security
5.2 	 Cost

5.3 	 The Department’s Public Image
6	

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4

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6

Benefits  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 6
6.1 	 Prison Control  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 7
6.2 	 Legal Resources

....................................................................................

7

6.3 	 Recidivism and Computer Literacy  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 7
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7

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7

6.4 	 Recidivism and Social Connection
6.5 	 Recidivism and Education

.............................................

8

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9

6.6 	 Benefits of Cost and Morality for the state
7	

Conclusion

	References  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 10
	Cases  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 10

1	Introduction

2	

This paper proposes putting computers
in every prison cell. Computers are considered
a highly effective tool in targeting recidivism
because they facilitate self-improvement through
education and vocational training. They also
improve employment prospects when individuals
are released, reducing the desire to re-offend.
Moreover, computers serve a myriad of practical
purposes including access to legal resources,
a means of communication and a source of
distraction. Most prisoners spend 18 hours
a day in a cell with only a T.V.; this program
provides a similar distraction, but with additional
educational advantages.

There is currently no provision of
computers in individual cells in N.S.W. or most
prisons around the world. N.S.W. Correctional
Centres provide shared classrooms where
inmates may access computers for limited
number of hours under supervision provided
they submit an ‘Offender Application for Access
to Computers’ and agree to the ‘Guidelines for
Offenders Using Computers’.1 Managers must
ensure that “desktop computers are used for
work, education, training and/or legal use”.2
Under Section 5.4.1.3, “the offender’s access
to the desktop computer is to be withdrawn
immediately” if supervision cannot be provided
and often this means that access to computers
is limited and that prisoners face educational
setbacks.3 Meanwhile, most TAFE and
university courses now require regular access
to computers and a report by the Employment,
Education and Training References Committee
notes that “it is becoming increasingly common
for enrolment 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”.4	

Central to this proposal is providing
efficacy to the correctional values of
prisoner welfare and reducing the number
of re-offenders. It is clear that the intention
of the prison system has shifted from punitive
punishment to rehabilitation and Justice Action
strongly believes that installing computers in
every cell will facilitate this goal.
This report also recognises that any
attempt to introduce computers into individual
cells must deal with security issues and the
public perception of this seemingly favourable
treatment towards criminals. These concerns
are legitimate, but security issues are becoming
increasingly nullified by advanced software
such as Cybersource PrisonPC, while any
image problems can be carefully managed by
demonstrating the economic benefits to the
tax-payer and showing how improving the
education of prisoners helps to lower crime
rates and take a world-leading stance on a key
human rights area. Indeed, to some extent this
model has already had some success and this
proposal draws on experiences in the A.C.T.,
Victoria and Norway to show this.

Current Situation

As a result of the inaccessibility of
computers under the status quo, only 1.3%
of N.S.W. prisoners are engaged in higher
education.5 This is a particularly significant
problem because 60% of inmates in N.S.W.
did not complete year 10 in the first place.6 The
onus for improving this situation lies squarely
with government. Between 2003 and 2004, 39%
of prisoners participated in courses offered by
the Adult Education and Vocational Training
Institute, showing a desire for self-improvement
when the opportunity was available. Adding to
1	

N.S.W. Department of Corrective Services,
Operations Procedures Manual (2009) N.S.W.
Council for Civil Liberties <http://www.nswccl.org.
au/issues/prisoners/ops.php> at 7 February 2011.
2	Ibid.
3	
See 2.1.1 – Mark Middleton
4	
Employment, Education and Training References
Committee, Senate, Report of the inquiry into
education and training in correctional facilities
(1996), 11.
5	Ibid.
6	
Community Justice Coalition, ‘N.S.W. State
Election: 26 March 2011, Prison System:
Questionnaire and submission’ (Press Release,
2007).

1

this impetus is the Report of the Inquiry into
Education and Training Correctional Facilities
conducted by the Senate Employment,
Education and Training References Committee,
which recommended the establishment of
“prison education centres with personal
computers and modems to enable access to the
standard range of educational databases and
networks available to community-based school
and TAFE students and undergraduates.”7 Thus,
the proposal to place computers into each cell
steps into this void and provides a model from
which responsible governments can work.

Even once you got access to the
computers, you would often get disturbed with
questions on how to do this or how to do that, as
the one teacher that was employed some days
found it difficult to share his time around if there
was problems with computers etc.
Although there were dedicated classes
teaching prisoners how to use computers, it
was difficult to access these classes as the
computers were constantly being used by other
inmates.
In some centre computers you would
not save anything to them as the next day or
sometime in the near future it would be wiped
clean and you would lose all information and
you had to print out everything and hope it was
correct.

2.1	 Experiences of
recent ex-prisoners
It is important to know that this area
of reform does not come in a vacuum and
is actually affecting the lives of prisoners
on a daily basis. Three such cases that are
worth discussing are the experiences of Mark
Middleton, Peter Clarke and A. Hughes.

2.1.2	A. Hughes (July 2005)
“I have been in the N.S.W. prison system
since 1993 and I was first introduced to the
education computers in 1994.

2.1.1	Mark Middleton

At Lithgow, in 1996, I had access to one
as required (twice weekly). Plus Lithgow had
a computer room with around 20 PC’s. Each
inmate had their own folder on the server with
password protection. I believe this system is still
running today. Computer access was around 9
hours weekly.

I know that there are computers in jails,
however whether you can get the access
you need or require is another thing. I have
personally experienced the inadequacies of
the education wing. For example, although the
wing opens say from 8:30 am to 11:30am for
the morning session, we have not been allowed
down to the wing till 9:00 to 9:30 am and then
we are kicked out of the wing at 11:00 am to
prepare for muster.

I was relocated to Goulburn around 1997
and the small computer room comprised 4 PC’s.
Computer access for 4 hours daily.
I was then relocated to Berrima in 19981999. The computer room only had 4 computers
which were PI technology with CD-ROMS.
Computer access was around 10 hours daily.
Shortly after they arrived, the gaol changed to a
female gaol, and I returned to Goulburn.

As the educational wing was not a high
priority in the running of the jail, if an officer in
another post was away then the educational
wing was the first post to get stripped of its
officer. Then, as there were not enough officers
at education, access would be denied that
session (which 90% of the time was all day).

I hope the above information will help you
in some way. I’m sorry it’s not all typed up and
laid out for you, because of the new policy I only
see the computer once a week if I’m lucky, and
that’s only for an hour. I’ve been in the computer
5 times this year (it’s July), which forced me to
withdraw from uni (USQ) and the IT Certificate
III Software applications course I was doing at
TAFE.”

With a jail of 300 or 600 inmates, education
only had limited computers for students (with
the number of computers usually being less
than 10% of the number of prisoners) and
the illiterate had priority before tertiary study
students. Therefore you could wait weeks or
even months before a position for a full time
student would become available.
7	

Employment, Education and Training References
Committee, above n 4.

2

3.1	 Metropolitan Remand Centre
in Victoria

2.1.3	Peter Clark (February 2011)
Supreme Court Justices Harrison, Holmes
and others recommended that I have computer
access to prepare my legal documents ie My
Appeal.

In the case of correction facilities in
Victoria, personal computers are allowed for
the following purposes: legal issues; education
and training; and integration needs. Ultimately,
these three justifications enhance prisoners’
level of education, which invariably leads to
the rehabilitation of prisoners. “Access to a
computer in the cells of prisoners is a privilege,
not a right, for all prisoners. Prisoners who
can demonstrate a need for a computer must
make an application to purchase a computer,
be able to pay for the purchase of an approved
computer and software, and abide by the
rules regarding computer use and restrictions
on software and games”.8 Although there are
many restrictions pertaining to computer use,
hardware and software, personal computers
may be utilised to aid in the education process.
In Victoria, prisoners may use personal
computers in their cells.

I have been given very limited computer
access and the only time I can use the computer
is in out of cell time (exercise time).
Judge Solomon of the District Court
ordered that the DPP supply me with a laptop.
The precedent being that the DPP supplied the
terrorists with laptops. That was in September
2010.
Judge Solomon gave the DPP 3 weeks to
comply. In October 2010 the DPP stated that the
Director did not have funds to supply me with a
laptop.
I believe and so do the Judges or Justices
that inmates who are doing their own appeals or
representing themselves should have computer
access in their cells, either laptops or desktop
PC.

3.2	 The Alexander Maconochie Centre
in ACT

My appeal document is over 200 pages
using a computer. It would be over 500 pages if I
had to hand write it. I believe it’s also impossible
to do an appeal by hand.

The Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC)
opened in 2008 and is the ACT’s primary
correction facility. The facility has been hailed
as the first human rights prison in Australia
modelled on the concept of rehabilitation rather
than punishment.9 In an interview with the
ABC, Dr. John Paget explains that the focus
of the AMC is on treating a prison population
that is significantly marked by mental health
issues, addiction and a lack of education.10 The
therapeutic environment of the centre draws
inspiration from the design of intensive care
units, aged care facilities and schools. Since
the 1st March 2009, computers that use the

Also many inmates young and old can’t
read or write. If they had a computer in their cell
they could put the 22 hours a day to good use
with maths or reading programmes.
These experiences elucidate issues that
might be overcome through the implementation
of a program that enables inmates to access
personal computers in their cell.

3	

Existing Examples of
Expanded Computer Use

8	

While personal computer use for prisoners
is not the international standard, this proposal
does not exist in a vacuum. Indeed, precedent
can be found for such a model in programs
that already exist in Victoria, the ACT and
Norway where expanded computer use has
provided significant benefits in terms of reaching
educational goals.

9	

10	

3

Personal Computers in Prison (2010) Victoria
Department of Justice <http://www.justice.
vic.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/DOJ+Internet/
Home/Prisons/Prisoners/Property/JUSTICE++Personal+Computers+in+Prison> at 7 February
2011.
Alexander Maconochie Centre (2010) A.C.T.
Department of Justice and Community Safety
<http://www.justice.act.gov.au/page/view/358> at 7
February 2011.
ABC Radio National, ‘The Alexander Maconochie
Centre: Australia’s first human rights prison’, Life
Matters, 23 June 2010 <http://mpegmedia.abc.net.
au/rn/podcast/2010/06/lms_20100623_0919.mp3>
at 7 February 2011.

Cybersource PrisonPC software have been
made available to most cells (See 4.2 for a
description of this software).

programs will also encourage further
education among those who have yet to
consider such a step.

3.3	 Skien High Security Prison

4.1	Supply

Internationally, the practice of providing
prisoners with computers in the cells has been
implemented. Norway has been a leading nation
in this program, with prisoners in the Skien high
security prison in southern Norway gaining
access to computers both in the classroom
as well as having individual computers in
their cells.11 Prison authorities in Skien have
addressed the issue of security by installing
firewalls that maintain security protocols, while
allowing limited access to the Internet and
resources that promote educational aims.12
This educative approach to the prison system
has wielded considerable results; the rates of
recidivism of Norway’s prisoners lie at 20%, as
compared to 50% and 60% in the UK and US
respectively.13

Justice Action has already received a
great deal of interest from organisations wishing
to contribute to this project. The provision of
computers will be at virtually no cost to the
Department of Corrective Services N.S.W.
as these computers can be sourced from
companies who regularly turn over their stock
of computers. Furthermore, most computers
whose hardware is less than five years old
are compatible with the software required to
maintain the security and efficient operation of
this system (see 3.2 Software). This provides a
large scope from which computers can be taken,
and this model of supply also has applicability
on the international stage due to the rapid
replacement of computers at major companies.

4	

4.2	Software
One obvious concern with implementing
this program is that of security and abuse of the
system. However, newly developed software,
such as Cybersource PrisonPC, allows for
easy surveillance and management of any
unauthorised computer use while maintaining
the educational benefits of computer access.
PrisonPC promises a “centrally managed
computing system, enabling custodial staff to
manage all desktops from a single, isolated
location” and desktops which are “resilient to
any method of permanent user modification
or unauthorised changes”.14 The programme
has already been implemented at both the
Metropolitan Remand Centre in Victoria and
the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC)
correctional facility in the ACT and operates on
most computers released in the past five years
(subject to compatibility checks).

Our Proposal

Considering the inadequacy of communal
computer facilities and taking into account the
success of the above examples, Justice Action
proposes the provision of individual computers
in cells for prisoners. These computers should
be equipped with:
◗◗

Email capability so that inmates may keep
in touch with family, friends and teachers
so that they may complete their learning
and successfully reintegrate into society
upon the completion of their incarceration.

◗◗

Access to legal resources whether in the
form of CD-ROMs or online resources
such as Austlii.

◗◗

Programs vital to the inmate’s vocational
or tertiary learning if study is being
undertaken. The availability of such

Software applications of PrisonPC include:

Erwin James, What are prisons in Norway really
like (2008) The Guardian <http://www.guardian.
co.uk/society/2008/nov/14/norway-prison-erwinjames> at 7 February 2011.
12	Ibid.
13	 William Lee Adams, Norway builds the world’s most
humane prison (2010) Time Magazine <http://www.
time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1986002,00.
html> at 7 February 2011.

◗◗

Complete office suite
(word processor, spreadsheet, etc)

◗◗

PDF document viewer

◗◗

Educational software

14	

CyberSource Prison PC: Secure Server & Desktop
Solution, CyberSource Prison PC <http://www.
prisonpc.com/> at 7 February 2011.

11	

4

◗◗

Games (solitaire, etc.)

◗◗

Extensive online help15

As a result prisoners are able to gain the
clear educational benefits of having computers
in individual cells without access to restricted or
inappropriate information.

Furthermore, prisoners may also be
given access to an approved list of websites
and a secure email so that they may contact
a restricted and monitored amount of people
(such as their solicitor and family members).
Indeed, the current system used by the N.S.W.
Department of Education and Training to
control prisoners’ access to Internet sources
through the use of an intranet system that puts
appropriate limits on the information that can
be accessed online. Prisoners will only be able
to visit sites approved by prison management,
and even in these cases, only specific parts of
these sites as required to maintain a secure
environment. This process is also supplemented
by the PrisonPC software; at the Alexander
Maconochie Centre, the software has already
prevented security breaches through its
integrated monitoring systems. All user sessions
are logged and available for audit, and custodial
staff can remotely monitor or control prisoner
desktops – either for remote support or for
surveillance.16 Meanwhile, emails may be
filtered through the following system:

15	
16	

4.3	 A system of personal
responsibility
While Justice Action has considered and
addressed various concerns arising from the
proposed installation of computers in cells,
we recognise that inmates may still abuse
the system. In such an event, it is necessary
that authorities recognise the principle of
individual responsibility as opposed to collective
responsibility, and ensure that only those
inmates who abuse the system should be
punished. Imposing punishments on the entire
prison due to the transgressions of select
prisoners will have the negative effect of setting
back the educational aspirations of the entire
prison community. In the event that abuses
of the computers in cells system does occur,
transgressors should be dealt with individually,
allowing the other prisoners to enjoy the
continued educational benefits proposed
by the computer program.

Secure Internet Access, Cybersource PrisonPC
<http://www.prisonpc.com/internet_features.html>
at 7 February 2011.
System Security, Cybersource PrisonPC <http://
www.prisonpc.com/security.html> at 7 February
2011.

5

5	Concerns

5.3	 The Department’s Public Image

Any proposal on this scale and in such
a divisive area will undoubtedly come with
numerous concerns and questions. Issues
such as security, problems of image and the
perceived cost of such a scheme all need to
be addressed before such a model can be
implemented.

The decision to provide computers to
each prisoner is of course one that must
be justified to the public, and there may be
a sense that this program makes life “too
easy” for prisoners who are supposed to be
serving time for a crime. However, this is by
no means true, as the purpose of this model
is not to undermine the system of crime and
punishment, but rather to rehabilitate offenders
and prevent a cycle of transgressions. This
is a program that in the long term will make
our streets safer by encouraging prisoners to
undertake suitable education and employment
rather than re-offending. Implementing this
scheme would bring practices in line with the
UN Special Rapporteur’s Report on Education
in Detention. This would allow governments to
be able to claim the moral and humanitarian
high ground that is appealing to voters and tax
payers – particularly when it is not coupled with
a significant financial burden.

5.1	Security
The first thing which a system involving
placing a computer in each prison cell must
address is whether this would result in
manipulation of the prison system. However,
the development of the PrisonPC software
shows that these issues can be managed
(see 4.2 Software for details). The filtering
of emails prevents any illegal or suspicious
communication with the outside community,
and while there is a threat of tampering with
the computer hardware, this can be prevented
through the use of plastic casing and regular
checks by prison staff. Indeed, as the success
of this program at the Alexander Maconochie
Centre has shown, the incentives for prisoners
for not misbehaving that are created by the
placement of computers in each cell actually
have the potential to reduce security problems
and disruptions for fear of losing the privileges
and relative freedoms that the computer grants.

Concerns with image, cost and security
must certainly be addressed before the
implementation of a scheme in which a
computer is placed in every prison cell, but
we are now in a position to not only solve any
such problems, but also actively turn them into
reasons why such a model is viable.

5.2	Cost

6	

While the cost of providing a computer for
each cell may seem prohibitive, the reality is that
this program would run at a minimal short-term
loss and quickly move into a position to actually
save money for the Department of Corrective
Services and the taxpayer (as will be discussed
in 6.5 – Benefits of Cost and Morality for the
state). As has been mentioned in 4.1 – Supply,
numerous companies have already registered
an interest in supplying free, used computers for
such a program. Furthermore, in facilities such
as the Nowra Prison in N.S.W., there is already
wiring set up in each cell for the provision of
computers – all that is required is the political
will to take action.

Benefits

The provision of individual computers
for prisoners has numerous benefits. The
immediate outcome is that personal computers
can be used to minimise confrontation
and disruption within the prison system.
Furthermore, by granting prisoners access
to legal resources this scheme can reduce
bureaucratic clutter and promote a greater
understanding by prisoners of how the law
operates – providing a deterrent for future
criminal activity. Meanwhile, in the long term this
model also acts to lower recidivism. Boosting
levels of prisoner education improves prisoner
rehabilitation: a process which is not only
beneficial for the prisoners, but also for the
Department of Corrective Services which will
have a smaller population of prisoners who
re-offend to cater for.

6

6.1	 Prison Control

6.4	 Recidivism and Social Connection

Personal computers offer significant
opportunities for prisoners – even if this is only
to reduce boredom.17 As a result, the presence
of a computer provides a major behavioural
incentive for prisoners to behave and not abuse
this privilege. The computer provides ease of
access for communication with family as well
as other simple distractions and prisoners will
want to maintain this and so are less likely to
risk their removal through inappropriate actions.
As a result, Prison Management will also have
another tool with which to control the prison
population and maintain order.

One of the keys to successfully
rehabilitating prisoners into society is providing
a set of relationships for them to fall back on
in the outside world. Access to regular email
with family through this scheme allows for the
prisoners to maintain these connections and
retain a sense of self-worth that will encourage
them to improve their situation through study
(also facilitated by the computers)! Furthermore,
as beneficial as such a relationship is to the
prisoner, it also allows for peace of mind for the
families of those imprisoned. Indeed, by being
able to communicate with that father, mother,
brother or aunt, family members will themselves
be less likely to follow in their paths since
feelings of isolation will be minimised.

6.2	 Legal Resources
Computers provide prisoners with access
to legal resources to assist with their court
cases. Prisoners will be able to read and
respond to legal briefs, and access transcripts
and legal Acts which are available on CDROMs. Computers also provide access to online
legal resources, such as those provided by
the Australasian Legal Information Institution
(Austlii). This information will assist prisoners
in accessing evidentiary and other materials
relied upon by the police in court cases without
difficulty.

6.5	 Recidivism and Education
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.
Why is education particularly important
for prisoners though? It is important because
there is a clear correlation between one’s level
of education and the probability of committing
a crime. In the 2002 decision of Middleton v
Commissioner of Corrective Services of New
South Wales, Justice Dowd discussed the role
of education in rehabilitation and stated that “it
is hard to imagine a better rehabilitation tool
than the gaining of tertiary qualifications of a
sophisticated nature”20. Similarly, Findlay argues
that “prisoner education is recognised as one
of the few correctional initiatives which seem to
correlate with improved recidivism prospects”.21
Indeed, education is the key factor in finding
employment once prisoners are released and
the Minister for Justice pointed out in 2004
that “employment is of essential assistance to
inmates avoiding the perils of recidivism once

6.3	 Recidivism and Computer
Literacy
The first opportunity that personal
computers offer for prisoners is the chance to
improve computer literacy. Computer literacy is
an increasingly vital requirement for everyday
life; it significantly affects education, vocational
training and career prospects.18 Most office jobs
require an understanding of Microsoft Office,
while even careers that focus on physical labour
are increasingly using computing to organise
and simplify their work. Furthermore, many
female prisoners admit that computer skills are
a great advantage when they returned home,
since they allowed them to help their children
with any computer problems.19
17	
18	
19	

Justice Action, ‘CARE: Computers Assisting Reform
and Education,’ 1 July 1999.
Erwin James, Prisoners should join the PC brigade
(2007) guardian.co.uk, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/
society/2007/sep/17/prisons> at 7 February 2011.
Susan Dawe, Vocational education and training for
adult prisoners and offenders in Australia: Research
readings (2007), 45.

20	
21	

7

Middleton v Commissioner of Corrective Services of
N.S.W. & Anor [2004] NSWSC 136, 46.
Findlay, M., “Prisons as progressive punishment?
The State of Corrective Services,” in The State of
the States (2004).

back in the community”.22 The UN Human
Rights Council also lends its support to prisoner
education with Munoz asserting that ‘learning
in prison through educational programs is
generally considered a tool of change, its value
judged by its impact on recidivism, reintegration,
and more specifically, employment outcomes
upon release’.23 These statements by field
leaders demonstrate just why a computerbased education program in prisons could be so
effective.

were 72% less likely to re-offend than those
who undertook no study. Similarly, Canadian
statistics demonstrate how prisoners who
completed at least two college courses have
50% lower recidivism rates.28 There is therefore
persuasive evidence in Australia as well as
abroad that education greatly reduces recidivism
and the model proposed by Justice Action is
one which takes note of this evidence to provide
a workable solution that encourages prisoners
to attain higher levels of education through
computers and thus become less likely to reoffend.

Furthermore, these expert assessments
are supported by quantitative evidence detailing
the benefits of prison education. A Queensland
study showed that 32% of prisoners who
did not complete a VET course returned to
custody within 2 years while only 23% of those
that did complete a VET course returned to
custody.24 Furthermore, a recent study by the
US Department of Education revealed that
prisoners who undertook secondary or tertiary
level study while in prison are less likely to
return to prison within the first three years
of release.25 In 1991, Clark investigated the
success of prisoners enrolled in twenty-one
prison college level education programs. This
study found that inmates who earned a diploma
returned to prison custody at a significantly
lower rate (26.4%) than those who did not earn
a degree (44.6%).26 Another study conducted
by Batiuk found that while the overall recidivism
rate in Ohio was 40%, the recidivism rate for
prisoners enrolled in the college program was
18%.27 In addition, Ohio statistics show that
inmates graduating from the college program
22	

23	

24	

25	
26	
27	

6.6	 Benefits of Cost
and Morality for the state
Currently, each prisoner in the state of
N.S.W. costs the government $174 a day and
this figure is mirrored throughout the developed
nations.29 As such, any measure that reduces
recidivism, and thus the prison population,
is one that requires support. This model, as
demonstrated through the correlation between
education and rehabilitation and employment
is one such measure and carries with it the
additional benefit of creating a larger pool
of skilled and educated workers who can
themselves only provide further stimulus to
the economy as tax payers rather than as
subsidised prisoners.
Furthermore, as has been previously
mentioned (see 5.3 – Image Problems), this
scheme also provides its implementing state
with the image benefits that come with being
seen as humanitarian reformers. Providing each
prisoner with a computer not only meets human
rights aims with regards communication and
education, but in general provides government
with the positive image of being progressive
and active on social issues, while also working
to maintain the security of its citizens and the
economic well-being of its jurisdiction.

Lithgow Correctional Centre Prisoner Computer
Access (2005) Parliament of New South Wales
<http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/
hansart.nsf/V3Key/LC20050323053> at 7 February
2011.
Munoz, United Nations: Promotion of Human
Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development
(2009) Human Rights Council, Eleventh Session,
Agenda Item 3, 4.
Adult Education and Vocational Training Institute
(AEVTI), Corrective Services N.S.W., <http://
www.correctiveservices.nsw.gov.au/offendermanagement/offender-services-and-programs/
adult-education> at 7 February 7, 2011.
Gwendolyn Cuizon, Benefits of Inmate Education
Program (2009).
D D Clark, Analysis of Return Rates of Inmate
College Program Participants (1991).
M Batiuk, ‘The State of Post secondary Correctional
Education In Ohio’ (1997) 48(2) Journal of
Correctional Education), 70-72..

28	

29	

8

Stephen Duguid, et.al. ‘Using Recidivism to
Evaluate Effectiveness in Prison Education
Programs’ (1996) 47(2) Journal of Correctional
Education, 74-85.
Sendt, R, J, Prisoner Rehabilitation: Department of
Corrective Services (2006) Auditor General N.S.W.
<http://www.audit.nsw.gov.au/publications/reports/
performance/2006/prisoner/prisoner_rehabilitation.
pdf> at 7 February 2011.

7	Conclusion

Justice Action, ‘CARE: Computers Assisting Reform and
Education,’ 1 July 1999.
Lithgow Correctional Centre Prisoner Computer Access
(2005) Parliament of New South Wales <http://www.
parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/
LC20050323053> at 7 February 2011.
M Batiuk, ‘The State of Post secondary Correctional
Education In Ohio’ (1997) 48(2) Journal of Correctional
Education), 70-72.
Munoz, United Nations: Promotion of Human Rights, Civil,
Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including
the Right to Development (2009) Human Rights Council,
Eleventh Session, Agenda Item 3, 4.
N.S.W. Department of Corrective Services, Operations
Procedures Manual (2009) N.S.W. Council for Civil
Liberties <http://www.nswccl.org.au/issues/prisoners/ops.
php> at 7 February 2011.
Personal Computers in Prison (2010) Victoria Department
of Justice <http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/wps/wcm/
connect/DOJ+Internet/Home/Prisons/Prisoners/Property/
JUSTICE+-+Personal+Computers+in+Prison> at 7
February 2011.
Pippa Norris, Digital divide? : civic engagement,
information poverty, and the Internet worldwide (2001).
Sendt, R, J, Prisoner Rehabilitation: Department of
Corrective Services (2006) Auditor General N.S.W.
<http://www.audit.nsw.gov.au/publications/reports/
performance/2006/prisoner/prisoner_rehabilitation.pdf> at
7 February 2011.
Secure Internet Access, Cybersource PrisonPC <http://
www.prisonpc.com/internet_features.html> at 7 February
2011.
Stephen Duguid, et.al. ‘Using Recidivism to Evaluate
Effectiveness in Prison Education Programs’ (1996) 47(2)
Journal of Correctional Education, 74-85.
Susan Dawe, Vocational education and training for adult
prisoners and offenders in Australia: Research readings
(2007).
Systen Security, Cybersource PrisonPC <http://www.
prisonpc.com/security.html> at 7 February 2011.
Tasman Bedford, Rhyl Dearden and Marilyn Dorman,
Offender rehabilitation and information literacy: A
case for providing appropriate prisoner access to
contemporary ICT (2005) Australasian Corrections
Education Association Inc. <http://www.acea.org.au/
Content/2005%20papers/Paper%20Bedford%20et%20al.
pdf> at 7 February, 2011.
William Lee Adams, Norway builds the world’s most
humane prison (2010) Time Magazine <http://www.time.
com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1986002,00.html> at 7
February 2011.

Prison sentences do not only serve to
punish and deter – they are also an effective
means of rehabilitation. In formulating an
effective rehabilitation programme, Justice
Action believes that government should treat
education as a top priority and provide individual
computers for an effective educational program.
This will not only reduce recidivism, but also
enhance the reintegration of prisoners back into
society, giving them greater job prospects and
an incentive to become productive individuals.
Programs placing computers in cells have
already had international success, so now is the
time to implement them on a wider scale.

References
ABC Radio National, ‘The Alexander Maconochie Centre:
Australia’s first human rights prison’, Life Matters, 23 June
2010 <http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2010/06/
lms_20100623_0919.mp3> at 7 February 2011.
Adult Education and Vocational Training Institute
(AEVTI), Corrective Services N.S.W., <http://www.
correctiveservices.nsw.gov.au/offender-management/
offender-services-and-programs/adult-education> at 7
February 7, 2011.
Alexander Maconochie Centre (2010) A.C.T. Department
of Justice and Community Safety <http://www.justice.act.
gov.au/page/view/358> at 7 February 2011.
Community Justice Coalition, ‘N.S.W. State Election:
26 March 2011, Prison System: Questionnaire and
submission’ (Press Release, 2007).
CyberSource Prison PC: Secure Server & Desktop
Solution, CyberSource Prison PC <http://www.prisonpc.
com/> at 7 February 2011.
D D Clark, Analysis of Return Rates of Inmate College
Program Participants (1991).
Employment, Education and Training References
Committee, Senate, Report of the inquiry into education
and training in correctional facilities (1996).
Erwin James, Prisoners should join the PC brigade (2007)
guardian.co.uk, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/
sep/17/prisons> at 7 February 2011.
Erwin James, What are prisons in Norway really like
(2008) The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk/
society/2008/nov/14/norway-prison-erwin-james> at 7
February 2011.
Findlay, M., “Prisons as progressive punishment?
The State of Corrective Services,” in The State of the
States (2004).
Gwendolyn Cuizon, Benefits of Inmate Education
Program (2009).

Cases
Middleton v Commissioner of Corrective Services of
N.S.W. & Anor [2004] NSWSC 136.

9

Published February 2011

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T 02 9283 0123 ext 14

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