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Technology Change in Prisons

Written by Chris Davies, Managing Director, Unilink Software Australia

Change in business processes is never easy yet in prison establishments it presents particular challenges.  Prisons are tough environments where technology has often failed to contribute anticipated gains, but why?

For obvious reasons most of us are not familiar with prison environments, but as a result of tensions, changes are viewed with suspicion, by both prisoner and staff.   This, one would argue, is to be expected even more so in a traditional, quite isolated environment such as prison.

Technology has become part of our normal daily lives and is now integrated everywhere – starting from simple chores like purchasing food in a supermarket to booking appointment with a GP or simply sending a parcel in the Post office – but that is not the case in prison.  So when Unilink’s Custodial Management and self-service  system (CMS) was introduced in Port Phillip, a G4S run Prison in the State of Victoria, Australia – the first one in the State there were initial fears.  They need not have been concerned.

“Port Phillip has now turned all kiosks on as Live at 12 Noon (Friday 2nd June). The prisoner group can see live account balance, purchase items, use notice board, FAQ’s and see payments from friends and family come into their accounts through Unilink’s secure payment service.  The prisoner group have been active and over 1,000 actual queries from this group have been undertaken within the first hour of live activity.  We are delighted”, says a report from Port Phillip Prison.  “It was important that the prisoners were able to use transactional systems that add real value to prisoners straight away”, said Chris Davis, MD Unilink (Aus).

The technology uptake speed can be phenomenal nowadays, provided there is good planning and training beforehand, and the implementation of self-service and offender management software in Port Phillip Prison is a prime example.     So yes, people might be a bit cautious at first when faced with changes, but when the changes bring them obvious benefits, the acceptance and success are achievable.

The biometrically enabled system allows prisoners to have control over organising the things that matter to them: visits, money, weekly canteen shopping and food. At the same time the technology releases prison officers from administration, allowing them to focus on working with prisoners. It creates back office efficiencies and the fact that all modules and functionalities seamlessly integrate, makes it even easier to use. Most importantly, it has huge educational and rehabilitative power on prisoners who gain from being given more responsibility.

Port Phillip Prison is a maximum security prison located at Truganina, Victoria, Australia. It is Victoria’s largest prison, able to accommodate up to 1087 prisoners.

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