Towards controlled internet access in penitentiaries

As more and more countries allow their inmates to use the Internet to facilitate their reintegration into society, Canada has consistently denied offenders access to the web. Correctional Service Canada (CSC) now wants to “balance the need to provide inmates with access to digital technologies”, while ensuring the safety of the public, victims, staff and offenders themselves. “Controlled” access to the internet will therefore be offered to prisoners.
In its “Invitation to Qualify for the Procurement Process for the Offender Computer Technology and Devices Initiative,” published Monday at the federal government tender site, CSC recalls that the current opportunities for an offender to interact with technology in his institutions include “limited access to computers for their work, their program, their legal needs and their personal activities”.

He explains that “for security reasons, computers are not connected to CSC security systems, external networks, or the Internet.”

Except that “CSC has reached the point where our environment is digitized to such an extent that the lack of technology in CSC services limits the ability of the organization to use progressive and current resources to better support efforts to reintegrate and rehabilitate offenders, “writes the organization.

CSC wishes to provide offenders with a suite of digital services, including an e-mail service and a video-conferencing service. It also wants to provide them with “appropriate” digital content as well as “controlled” access to the internet.

Improve reintegration

CSC’s call to electronic service providers follows comments by Canada’s Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger. In his latest annual reports, Zinger advocated that detainees be offered “controlled access to information technology,” including controlled access to e-mail and the Internet. He also recommended that offenders be able to learn online and have access to tablets in the cells.

In an interview with Radio-Canada in July 2017, the Correctional Investigator of Canada stated that providing Internet access to prisoners would improve public safety. “It can facilitate their reintegration [into society] and can be a good tool to educate and alleviate the burden of correctional staff,” Zinger noted.

According to him, an inmate who can surf the web is more likely to be able to attend training, develop knowledge, find a job at the end of his sentence and reduce the risk of re-offending.

The document published by CSC on the Government of Canada tendering site does not specify when the first penitentiaries could be connected and does not provide any estimate of project costs. E-service providers have until June 19 to undergo pre-selection to be selected as “Qualified Respondents” for later stages of the procurement process. “Only qualified respondents will be allowed to bid on a subsequent bid solicitation issued as part of the procurement process,” says SCC.

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