Computers in Cells

Computers in Cells

Victory: Computers for Legal Access


The need for prisoners to access computers in cells is at last being recognised by the law. In a groundbreaking decision in Liristis v State of New South Wales, Tony Liristis, an inmate of Long Bay Correctional Centre, was successfully granted access to a laptop and printer/scanner to prepare his case whilst in custody.

Justice Schmidt presented the following decision:

“Mr Liristis forthwith be given access to his printer/scanner and laptop in custody and that he be permitted to use that equipment in the preparation and conduct of his case, both in custody prior to the commencement of the hearing and in the District Court, during the course of the trial.”

Tony Liristis was originally denied access to a computer that was needed to prepare and present his own case, research the law, and view evidence on CDs. In consequence, his trial had to be postponed the legal process was frustrated.

Access to a fair trial is a common law right, and depriving a prisoner of technology can amount to gross miscarriage of justice. Mr Liristis’ victory proves the need for the Computer in Cells campaign and has set an important precedent for greater access to technology in custody.

Unfortunately, Corrective Services NSW appealed Justice Schmidt’s decision. The case went before the Supreme Court (Court of Appeal) on 7 and 8 May 2018. We are awaiting the result.

Below are three documents consisting of:

  1. Judgement of Justice Schmidt in Mr Liristis’ favour
  2. Transcript from the 30th of January 2018
  3. Transcript from the 31st of January 2018

Western Australia Computer in Cells Media Release

Poor Computer Access - WA Prisons Inspector
Article from The West Australia " Greater Computer Access part of W.A. Plan"
Justice Action Media Release: March 29, 2018
The WA Inspector of Custodial Services, in a damning Report just released “The Digital Divide”, in which Western Australia was exposed as having the lowest rate of computers in cells of any state. Thirty-six computers service over 4,000 prisoners. In 2009 there were 167. This lack of computers severely affects the prisoners’ ability to survive upon release.
The Inspector said “Smart use of technology can…increase people’s opportunities to stay in contact with family and friends while in custody, making reintegration less confronting. With the right technology, access to legal, health and government services in custody can be increased. Web based systems and other technologies offer opportunities to increase program and education services in the custodial environment”.
The Inspector cited ‘fiscal pressures facing government’, however he failed to mention the consequence of not offering online counseling services in a bid to reduce the rates of domestic violence. This would result in 173 women and children unnecessarily experiencing domestic violence, and $38 million in unnecessary Government expenditure, each year. This compelling argument convinced the NSW to implement Computers in Cells, and it should be applied equally around the country.
The Inspector was also concerned about in-cell restriction to basic electronic legal information. ‘With the exception of Acacia Prison (16 computers) all other facilities have six or fewer working library computers which can be accessed for legal purposes’, and access to these computers is further restricted depending upon ‘…overcrowding… rostered times, or when parts of the prison are lock down as a result of incidents or short-staffing.’ The lack of evidence when it comes to regular discussion with the legal profession about communications and access of clients is concerning to say the least.
In the ACT Computers in Cells have been operating for 8 years and is safe, effective and cost efficient. See ACT Report. Education participation in the ACT prison stands at 76.3%, which is more than double the national rate of 31.6%. It saves money and makes us all safer with fewer victims. The cost of the computers infrastructure in a major prison only costs $230 000. This is equivalent to the cost of keeping two prisoners for one year.

World Distribution of Computer Victory

Beginning in December 2017, emails detailing the compelling argument and victory decision for Computers in Cells were sent to all prison authorities within Australia, as well as to authorities in most countries globally. They were requested to adopt the argument in their jurisdiction.

In every Australian and New Zealand jurisdicition, each Premier, Minister, Opposition Spokesperson, Greens, and head of bureaucracy were sent the news. Emails were also sent to all NSW Members of Parliament and Judges from the High Court to magistrates.

Internationally, the information was sent globally to prison authorities in UK, Canada and USA. 

It featured in UK prisoners' newspaper Inside Time article. Inside Time newspaper.

It went to Europe with translations where necessary. This included Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Belgium, Switzerland, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, The Netherlands, Finland, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Portugal, Spain, Belarus, Georgia, Iceland, Kosovo, Albania, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and Denmark. 

In Asia it went to China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, and Taiwan. 

It also went with translations to the Districts of Russia, the Caribbean, Jamaica, Guam and Fiji.

Responses are flowing in from all over the world with the right to communication in locked institutions firmly on the agenda.

Index page to campagin

Community Justice Coalition: Cost of Inaction - Prisoner Domestic Violence

Cost inaction coverphoto 

Cost of Inaction - Prisoner Domestic Violence

The paper release by the Community Justice Coalition (CJC) estimates that over 500 women and children could have been spared the trauamatic effects of domestice violence if the NSW Government had accepted the free offer of online counselling for prisoners in their cells. Additionally $110 million dollars could have been saved over the past twelve months.

Click here to visit CJC page.

CJC Media Release: Campaign Begins

CJC Media Release

Community Justice Coalition (CJC) recently released a media release   commenting on the urgent need for computers in prisons across NSW and Australia. CJC advocates for the myriad of benefits that computers in cells will provide for prisoners and the community that would "radically improve outcomes for prisoners". CJC explains that the easy access to computers for prisoners will allow for easy delivery of programes such as domestic violence and de-radicalisation counselling, access to education and legal services in a safe and controlled manner. For more information, visit the CJC website here or go to our computers in cells campaign page, here.

Media Reports

The Daily Telegraph Reports on Friday, 21st of April, 2017: 


News.com.au reported on 20th of April about the importance of 'Computers in Cells'.


Prison Responses.jpgLATEST NEWS


“Prisons are highly unsettling environments in which individuals are more likely than elsewhere to explore new beliefs and associations. Confronted with existential questions and deprived of their existing social networks, prisoners with no previous involvement in politically motivated violence are vulnerable to being radicalised and recruited into terrorism. Prisons, therefore, are ‘places of vulnerability’ in which radicalisation can take place” (Peter R. Neumann, 2010) 

There are many ways in which an individual can become radicalised; existing theories emphasise different perspectives or levels of radicalisation. A number of factors such as a lack of social support, political views, and individual factors are common themes among radicalised individuals. In order to address the issue of radicalisation, it is imperative that computers are placed within prison cells. This allows prisoners to utilise time in their cell which would otherwise be wasted, on receiving online counselling services which help begin the de-radicalisation process.

Online programs and services have been shown to reduce rates of offending and should have the capacity to make a positive impact on the process of de-radicalisation. Online access to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has been shown to offer a range of benefits that include the following:

• The period of time spent in isolation each day is utilised productively;
• Stability and continuity of the service provider are ensured throughout the sentence and after release;
• Greater trust in external counsellors;
• Greater empowerment by encouraging self-management;
• Greater cost-effectiveness; and
• Research indicates that online counselling leads to more long-term changes in the behaviour of participants than face-to-face counselling.

Even though there is little to no data on recidivism with relation to terrorist offences due to the new nature of the offence and the minimal convictions, its root causes and matching solutions are not completely removed from more conventional crime. Research demonstrates that access to formal education and work opportunities increasingly lower recidivism rates for prisoners. The absence of meaningful personal relationships and a weak sense of community belonging play significantly into the radicalisation process, yet their influence has been overlooked in a number of de-radicalisation programs. Working towards lower rates of recidivism should give equal, if not more, weight to the engagement of a radicalised individual. A strong coordinated community and government effort that includes prisoner training, education, and engagement within prisons would significantly reduce recidivism and the chances of re-radicalisation.

Australian Capital Territory Since its deployment in 2009 at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, PrisonPC has provided inmates with access to several online resources. The initial aim of PrisonPC was to provide educational support for prisoners, which would contribute to lower rates of recidivism and aid in the process of social re-integration. However, the interface also provides several add-ons such as media streaming facilities and religious services. Online counselling in cells increases the availability of these services in concurrence with the chances of rehabilitation.

New Zealand – Auckland South Corrections Facility
Given the increasing prevalence of computer and Internet usage in our society, several international jurisdictions have implemented the use of online counselling in newly built jails. This demonstrates the importance of recognising the positive influence technology can have in rehabilitating those in prison rather than subjecting them to punishment. In particular, the construction and operation of the Auckland South Corrections Facility in 2015 symbolises a step forward in the recognition of the importance of access to technology in promoting self-management. As such, the Serco Director of Operations Scott McNarin states that “access to this technology imposes the expectation that prisoners will engage in purposeful activities, such as education, in what can often be an unproductive time in other prisons.” Hence, this program demonstrates that there is scope for the introduction of online counselling in Australian cells to provide access to positive, external influences. It is clear that access to online services in cells provides a constructive opportunity for effective prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

With the appropriate resources and services, the higher the possibility of lowering levels of recidivism. Therefore, introducing online counselling into cells and offering online counselling services presents a viable option for tackling the issue of radicalisation.

Computers In Cells


Australian Institute of Criminology: Analysis of Prisoner ICT
Victory: Computers for Legal Access in Liritis v State of New South Wales
Poor Computer Access - W.A. Prisons Inspector
World Distribution of Victory
Prisons NSW Agreement
Victory: Computers in Cells to be Implemented
Cost of Inaction - Prisoner Domestic Violence
ACT Prison Report
Youth Access - International Survey
Facebook Wants Kids in Juvenile Detention to Get Internet Access
Petition: Call for Computers in Cells for Juvenile Detainees
NSW Government Response to JA Online Counselling Proposal

Computers have had a profound impact on society in recent decades – not only in the workplace but also in homes, schools and the public arena. The benefits of computers are invaluable to prisoners, providing a means to access online education, counselling (including domestic violence) and legal services. Whilst computers are readily available and widely used by the public, prisoners have not been afforded the same level of access to computers, often due to misinformed security concerns and the ignorance of prison administrators.

Many prisoners spend up to 18 hours locked in their cells every day. As Justice Action has proposed, having computers in cells would safely and securely help to maximise productivity during the 18 hours prisoners spend in isolation, provide trusted counsellors through external providers, allow for the stability of service providers throughout the sentence and after release and encourage empowerment and self-management.

Prisoners, teachers, service providers, government bodies and enforcement agencies all agree on the need for education within the prison system. They recognise that education is instrumental to the successful rehabilitation of prisoners, contributing to the reduction in rates of recidivism.

On the 20th of April 2017, Justice Action and the Community Justice Coalition officially launched the computers in cells campaign. In order to fund a pilot program, a crowdfunding program was also established. 



Online Counselling in Cells
Online Legal Services
Online Education Services
Computers In Cells Policy Policy Proposal
History of The Computers In Cells Project
Computers in Juvenile Cells

Online Services: Education

“Knowledge is power.  Information is liberating.  Education is the premise of progress."
- Kofi Annan

Prisoner Public Education Attacked
Computers in Cells Roundtable Discussion.

Providing education to people in prisons is vital in reducing recidivism. A recent study found that inmates that participated in educational programs while in prison were 28% less likely to commit another serious offence than those that didn't participate. Therefore, providing education to prisoners is vital not only for the safety of the community, but also for the furthering of people in prisons. Providing prisoners with access to eduational services through computers in cells is a cheap and effective way to achieve this.

What is education?  Put simply, education is power.  It is the power of opportunity and self-determination. 

The access and quality of education services to those within the prison and mental health care systems continues to be an area of great debate and discussion. However, education is a basic human right (Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) to which all deserve access irrespective of social or economic status, or personal circumstance. Australia formally acknowledged its recognition of and commitment to this right (Article 13 of the ICESCR) through its involvement in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The denial of education should not be used as a punitive measure by corrective or mental health care services.

Education is a multifaceted concept that targets and promotes opportunity, growth, wellbeing and awareness. One of JA’s aims is to educate prisoners and forensic patients, figures of authority and the community as to the education rights and benefits of those within the prison and mental health care systems. Through this, JA also seeks to increase the advocacy for and acknowledgement of these rights.

See our Report on the United Nation's Investigation into Education in Detention.
See also the Community Justice Coalition Forum on Education in Prison 2016 and our discussion paper.


For the good of our community, we need a computer in every prison cell.  Computers are a tool to target and decrease recidivism rates through education, awareness and self-betterment.  With the majority of prisoners spending up to 18 hours each day in their cells, providing prisoners with educational tools and resources in their cells would take advantage of this otherwise wasted time to reduce prison disruption and prisoner deviancy, and to increase deterrence and the likelihood of prisoners becoming productive members of society when they return outside. 

By simply providing incarcerated individuals with a computer of their own, recidivism rates could be drastically reduced.  While there are specific security issues that would have to be considered, technological advancements are rapidly ensuring that such concerns would be easily addressed.  Although providing prisoners with computers in their cells has been successful in the ACT, Victoria and Norway, computers are currently not provided in individual cells in NSW and most prisons around the world. 

Read more on the Computers in Cells Campaign here.
See The Conversation's article: Offline Inmates Denied Education and Skills that Reduce Reoffending (24/04/2015).


The benefits of providing education through computers in cells are numerous.

1. Increases the accessibility prisoners have to educational services
2. Reduces recidivism and ensures community safety
3. Provides inmates will skills that would benefit them after their release from prison
4. It is cheap
5. Promotes self-management among inmates
6. It is a beneficial way to use the 18 hours prisoners spend in isolation

Read the full article here.

Costs (current and future) vs. earnings

Education is a positive direction of energy and reduces the incidence of destructive behaviour. We urge the government to provide an adequate allocation of resources to prisons and mental health care facilities, in areas including the provision of teachers, computers and other educational materials. This will better equip prisoners and forensic patients seeking to develop themselves and make positive lifestyle changes, providing them with a much-needed lifeline. Such changes will benefit not only the individual, but also society as a whole – the benefits of individual enrichment and community costs of recidivism far outweigh the short-term cost of increasing education access in correctional and mental health facilities.

- Recognition: Ensure the recognition of qualifications gained in prison to aid individuals when seeking employment upon release
- Prospect of further education: Ability to pursue further or higher education upon release
- Employment: Programs funded/implemented by employers à guarantee future employment if successfully completed

While in 2013-2014, NSW prisons facilitated the delivery of 18,335 hours of TAFE courses for prisoners, by 2015 we have seen this number reduced by 20%, with only 7,000 hours contracted for the first semester of 2015. Unfortunately, cost is a major barrier to prisoners accessing this shrinking supply of practical education. For someone receiving unemployment benefits the cost of a Certificate 1-4 TAFE course is $240, whereas prisoners, who are not in receipt of government benefits, must pay $1730 for the same course.


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