What research has the Government carried out or reviewed since then about
the benefits of prisoners having computers in cells?
What evidence does the Government have about access to computers in prison
cells for online counselling to address:
Drug⁄substance problems, including smoking;
Anxiety and other mental health concerns;
Domestic and family violence?
What assessment has the Government made of benefits of access to computers
in cells for education, training and employment?
What assessment has the Government made of benefits of computer access in
cells to reduce recidivism and improve rehabilitation?
What action will the Government take to introduce computers to prison cells
with appropriate safeguards?
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
(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
(5) It is plausible that in-cell access to computers has the potential to
assist inmates to reintegrate into the community by:
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.