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Question and Answer Tracking Details


Greenwich, Alex to the Minister for Counter Terrorism, Minister for Corrections, and Minister for Veterans Affairs
  1. Considering that New South Wales prisoners have access to television but not computers in their cells, what changes have been made in policy about access to computers in prison cells since LA Q6142 (Questions and Answers Paper No. 9, 16 October 2014) for:
    1. Adults;

    2. Juveniles?

  2. What research has the Government carried out or reviewed since then about the benefits of prisoners having computers in cells?

  3. What evidence does the Government have about access to computers in prison cells for online counselling to address:

    1. Drugā„substance problems, including smoking;

    2. Anxiety and other mental health concerns;

    3. Anger management;

    4. Domestic and family violence?

  4. What assessment has the Government made of benefits of access to computers in cells for education, training and employment?

  5. What assessment has the Government made of benefits of computer access in cells to reduce recidivism and improve rehabilitation?

  6. What action will the Government take to introduce computers to prison cells with appropriate safeguards?

Answer -

I am advised:

(1) (a) Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) developed the Digital Offender Initiative to improve prison education and training in accordance with the Government's 2011 election commitment. Through its Offender Digital Services Program Blueprint CSNSW is addressing the way technology can be appropriately and safely used to provide a range of services to offenders in custody.

The first stage of scaling up in cell technology has now commenced with the purchase of 800 digital devices that will be available for each inmate in the new rapid build correctional centres. Using these devices inmates can access online educational programs, legal resources and initiate self-service prison-related transactions such as scheduling programs and services, enrolling in courses, checking court schedules and ordering buyups. Inmates will also be able to make internal inquiries and applications online.

(b) Juveniles in detention do not have access to computers in their rooms due to online security issues and for the safety of themselves and others. Young people have access to computers in the educational facilities in juvenile justice centres where appropriate supervision is provided and their use is linked to educational development and outcomes.

(2) CSNSW supports increasing inmate access to computers and has satisfied itself of the benefits of controlled access to digital devices in cells. CSNSW staff have participated in international forums, for example International Prisons and Corrections Association (ICPA) events where experts have presented on the benefits and risks of in cell computers and vendors have demonstrated current solutions that have been applied in other jurisdictions.

(3) CSNSW has not found any empirical evidence to directly support the claim that inmates will engage in online counselling, or that the delivery of online counselling for inmates has efficacy. CSNSW however is supportive of inmates accessing a range of appropriate services from internal and external service providers.

(4) CSNSW recognises the potential for in-cell computers to improve inmates' access to educational resources and to enable inmates to make productive use of in-cell time in areas such as computer literacy, expanding learning opportunities and preparing for post-release employment. The trial of laptops in cell at the South Coast Correctional Centre identified some security risks but also a range of benefits for offenders participating in educational programs.

(5) It is plausible that in-cell access to computers has the potential to assist inmates to reintegrate into the community by:

  • Improving access to key services such as housing, job opportunities and basic community services.
  • Encouraging inmates to be more autonomous in accessing information and undertaking programs is also likely to have a positive benefit on future offending.
  • Supplementing and reinforcing program content that is delivered face to face.

High quality evidence to support these expectations is developing but not yet available in peer reviewed research publications.

(6) CSNSW has adopted a cautious and incremental approach to introducing computers to cells. A blue print has been developed to guide this process. At each step security considerations and community expectations are paramount considerations. For example in trialling the use of laptops in cells for educational purposes at one correctional centre, safeguards included removing access to CD⁄DVD drives, modifications to improve security and preventing access to the internet. Recycled laptops were used to contain costs.

Question asked on 22 November 2017 (session 56-1) and printed in Questions & Answers Paper No. 160
Answer received on 27 December 2017 and printed in Questions & Answers Paper No. 162