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Prisoner Self-Service helping South Australia to become more efficient

Prisoner-Self-Service1Location:  South Australia
Number of Prisoners: 3,000
Number of correctional facilities: 8

The challenge

The Department for Correctional Services in South Australia’s mission is: “To manage offenders in a safe, secure and humane environment and provide opportunities for rehabilitation and reintegration”. 

David Brown, Chief Executive of the Department for Correctional Services in South Australia said, “The opportunity to introduce self-service kiosks for prisoners in our facilities really came about as a result of the need to find efficiency and effectiveness improvements in our system, to free up staff time to be engaged in more meaningful interactions and contact with offenders, whether that be about getting them to work, having them engaged in programmes or dealing with their case management needs, and providing the prisoners greater control over their day-to-day living requirements.

We want to do away with those paper-based systems that are often a cause of great frustration not only for prisoners but also for staff in the agency. And as we introduce the technology, I think what it demonstrates to the prisoner population but more importantly to the staff across the prison system, is how technology can be used to aid and enhance the prison environment”.


The solution

In 2016, the Kiosk Express System (KEX), Unilink’s Prisoner Self-Service was launched across all facilities enabling prisoners to become self-sufficient in submitting requests and obtaining information via the use of electronic “kiosks”.

Prisoners in Southern Australia can use the Self-Service kiosks to:

  • Order canteen and property items
  • Transfer money to their phone account
  • View their account balances and transactions
  • Lodge requests
  • View meals available
  • View visit bookings
  • View information published by the department
  • Self-refer themselves to the Prison Health Service


Carol Zulian, Project Manager for the Kiosk Express System at the Department of Correctional Services said, “we decided to take a staged approach as part of the implementation. This was more manageable for the sites themselves and also, we were able to get each site right by using pilot sites, making sure that the operations were successful before we rolled out to other sites.”

There were seven implementation stages:

  • Stage 1: Prisoners can order canteen items, view their account balances and associated transactions, view information published by the department on the noticeboard, and frequently asked questions.
  • Stage 2: Allows prisoners to make all requests via kiosks, removing the need for the existing paper-based system. Each request has a workflow automatically electronically directed to the relevant personnel to take action, resulting in a timelier response.
  • Stage 3: Allows prisoners to transfer monies from their general account to their prisoner telephone account.
  • Stage 4: Allows professional visitors to book their visits online via the department’s web page and DCS staff to use an effective bookings system.
  • Stage 5: Allows prisoners to view their booked domestic visits.
  • Stage 6: Allows prisoners to see meals provided by the kitchen.
  • Stage 7: Allows prisoners to view their call history, phone balance, and approved numbers.

Kiosks had to be robust to withstand abuse – the kiosks have 12mm toughened glass screens, steel chassis construction, with all access points secured by bolt.

Carol said,We had an incident at one of our high-security facilities where prisoners refused to return to their cells and decided to damage a lot of the establishment. One prisoner chose to obtain a fire extinguisher and continually smash the kiosk, and what we ended up with was some slight dents in the casing. We’re extremely impressed with the quality of the product that’s been delivered.

Security was a key factor both in terms of prisoners’ ability to breach the network and prisoners not being able to access other prisoners’ details. Kiosks are biometrically enabled via a high-quality fingerprint scanner; access requires prisoners to enter a PIN code followed by verification through the scan of their fingerprint. One of the biggest challenges of this project was the establishment of a prisoner network. We needed to be sure that all controls were in place to ensure that there was no breach of security”.


Effect on prisoner life

Sashi Cheliah, Case Management Coordinator said, “They [prisoners] can be more independent, they can log on to the system, check their account balance, check whether buys have gone through, and they also have the option of choosing what item they want. They have a list of items and now they have the option of choosing. There are pictures on the screen, if they’re unable to read or write there are pictures so they know what they’re buying exactly. They’re not asking the staff anymore; “What am I buying? Have they got the stock in place?”, whatever stock is available in the store is reflected on the KEX system, so they know exactly what they’re purchasing. It’s useful for them”.

Carol said, “This technology aligns prisoners with the normalisation of current IT systems in society, especially for those prisoners serving long term sentences, some who may have never experienced using an ATM. 

Each request is automatically electronically directed to the relevant personnel to take action. Ultimately what we will achieve with the system will be a reduction in the volume of administration work undertaken by staff. Staff will then be able to focus on prisoner management, rehabilitation, and security compliance. There’ll be a reduction in frustration and tension between prisoners and staff. We will have an effective audit tool to review how well we as an agency deal with prisoner requests. We will also have a comprehensive historical record of all requests made by prisoners, and our responses which will assist in investigating complaints.

Bernie Gelston, Accommodation Manager, Mobilong Prison said, “I see this as a game-changer. It’s probably the most significant change that I’ve seen in 35 years in corrections. Staff are able to engage in more meaningful ways on more important issues than the day to day mundane of what a prisoner did or didn’t get in his buy, and what money he did or didn’t have, and so that alone I see as the big change that we’ve received from the system.

The main changes that we’ve seen so far are the reduction of face-to-face conflict between prisoners and staff over what are, essentially, issues that neither correctional officers nor prisoners can resolve at their level, and unfortunately, the correctional officer is the face of the department. That’s the only level that the prisoner can access readily, so therefore those questions invariably start at that level, and if you’re going to get conflict that’s where it’s going to happen. We’ve seen a reduction in that because these problems simply don’t exist. 

The prisoner is getting their answers to everything through the kiosk, they can see where the problems are, and if they need clarification that’s where the officer can step in and just clarify points for them. As the population grew, we did have this long green line of prisoners standing in front of the canteen, debating what they could choose from the canteen. That resulted in lots of anger, a lot of pressure, other prisoners watching other prisoners to see what they were purchasing, and that was also unsustainable. The kiosk comes along, and we can now do the order on the kiosk remotely, it’s a private transaction between the prisoner and the system, it’s done in isolation of all the other prisoners, and then they can pick up their canteen order pre-packed”.


Further development

David said, “This is an example of how technology has delivered a benefit, but we’re now exploring opportunities to network prisoner education and vocational training across the correctional system and to present opportunities to link with external education providers as part of that program of transformation”. 




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