Counselling is an effective method of changing people's behaviour. The use of computers in prisons is a fantastic means to facilitate counselling through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is derived from two different fields, cognitive theory and behavioural theory. The former focuses on intrinsic mental thoughts whilst the latter deals with external behaviours. In this sense, CBT addresses the fundamental problem of undesirable modes of thinking in order to prevent undesirable behaviours.
CBT is widely accepted as facilitating positive and long-lasting changes in offenders' behaviour. Research has shown that when offered online, CBT is more effective than face-to-face therapy. This makes online counselling especially appropriate for the prison environment where physical and confidentiality obstacles can be overcome with technology. CBT has particular application in dealing with both domestic violence and de-radicalisation.
Despite its benefits, CBT should not be seen as a full solution to crime. Crime is socially constructed; the product of both the offender’s behaviour and society’s view of that behaviour. Overrepresentation of minorities in the prison system demonstrates how these groups suffer significant differences in law enforcement. In addressing this issue, the focus should be on the cultural, socio-political and economic factors causing discrimination, rather than the symptoms of that discrimination being treated as a crime.
The opportunity to implement CBT in prisons has yet to be taken but has international interest. This interest is easily explained by the wide-ranging benefits for not only prisoners but also for the broader community. These benefits include: providing trusted counsellors through external providers; allowing for the stability of service providers throughout the sentence and after release; empowerment and self-management; providing a cost-effective plan; and finally, there is research indicating that online counselling can be more effective than face-to-face counselling.
The prevalence of domestic violence continues to increase at an alarming rate; perpetrators of domestic violence offences are amongst the most represented groups within correctional services.
The clear need to explore additional counseling options for domestic violence is demonstrated by the high recidivism rate. With 20.3% of perpetrators reoffending within twelve months of release, online services could provide crucial assistance in ending the cyclical nature of domestic violence.
In 2015, Justice Action offered to conduct a free 3 month trial of online delivery of councelling services in NSW correctional services. View more here.
The prison environment presents an opportunity for terrorist offenders to radicalise their younger, more impressionable peers; while poor, over-crowded conditions with little meaningful social contact predisposes inmates to radicalisation. 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. Read more.