3 Technologies Transforming Corrections

By Morteza SahebkarAugust 17, 2021

3 Technologies Transforming Corrections

Industries have adapted to changes in technology at varying rates. Although the shift toward technological advancements has happened at a slower pace in the criminal justice system, it’s now moving faster than ever. Especially at correctional facilities, one reason is the replacement of retiring law enforcement personnel with professionals who grew up in a tech-savvy environment.


Case in point: Many incoming sheriffs are Millennials or even Generation Z. They’re fearless when it comes to technology and very educated. To them, progress makes sense and seems intuitive. Frequently, the only reason they sometimes hold back from embracing innovations is a lack of funding or related resources.


Regardless of obstacles, the push toward adding more technologies at varying touchpoints in the justice system is essential. Fortunately, more facility leaders are realizing the benefits of bringing technology into courts, jails, and community programs.


Additional Benefits of Introducing Technology Into Prisons


What are some of the advantages of leveraging technology or making it available in correctional facilities? A huge perk for inmates is convenience and access to platforms similar to what they’ll encounter in the outside world. Interacting with technology helps prepare incarcerated individuals for reentry, not to mention reduce feelings of technological frustration or shock.


From the perspective of correctional staff, technology can be used to incentivize inmates and create a safer, more secure environment. As an example, inmates who showcase good choices and behaviors could be rewarded with access to tablets so they can tap into the latest entertainment offerings, religious services, or educational classes.


Technology in the justice system can even affect communities in a positive, measurable way. When incarcerated members of society can stay connected with the outside world and gain more knowledge and beneficial training, they are less likely to return to prison. Plus, they have more skill sets to bring to the job market.


Which technologies are making the biggest impact right now? A few come to mind:


1. Inmate tablets


As noted above, tablets have become a window to the outside world for inmates. This piece of digital technology is also very familiar to younger individuals accustomed to using devices. At the same time, they’re valuable teaching tools for older inmates who missed out on the internet revolution.


Already, lots of future-focused correctional institutions rely heavily on tablets for inmate online learning purposes, as it can be tough to set up in-person classes, especially during the pandemic. Remote classrooms make taking workshops, receiving certifications, or earning degrees possible. Incarcerated students can use their tablets for research and homework submissions, too.


2. Video inmate visitation


It can be tough for families to visit their loved ones in prison, especially if the prison is located far away. The technological answer to this problem is inmate video calls. Video visitation in prisons allows inmates to spend very little money to engage with their significant others, children, parents, and friends.


Removing the barriers to physical visitation is a practical solution for all parties. Many jails prefer to facilitate video prison family visits because they involve less time and risk than arranging and transporting inmates for on-site visits. And from an incarcerated individual’s standpoint, being able to stay tethered with loved ones can ease stress and reduce recidivism later.


3. Digital documentation and mail scans


Dealing with inmate documentation and forms can be a hassle and even a liability if procedures aren’t followed correctly or if forms go missing. One way to reduce risks is by digitizing all paperwork. A customizable, easily edited digital document can be accessible to the inmate population via controlled kiosks, if necessary. Yet it doesn’t need to be filed or passed from hand to hand.


The same principle holds true with inmate mail. Many jail staff members are tasked with reading and reviewing incoming mail to ensure that the paper hasn’t been soaked with illicit drugs or that packages don’t contain illegal substances. Outsourcing this responsibility to a provider that can upload all mail to scannable content makes everyone’s job simpler and more secure. The inmate can then read all mail digitally through inmate tablets or via kiosk.


The corrections system is experiencing numerous technological disruptions. Fortunately, progressive leaders working in the court and correctional fields are experimenting with the latest digital advancements. Over time, these technological improvements will help make institutional life more practical and purposeful for inmates and staffers.


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