How Touchscreens Help Overcome Prison Operation Challenges

By: Tyler Wells, North American Sales Manager, MicroTouch

If you were to try to name all the possible use cases for touchscreen solutions, the list would be long. From smartphones and self-service kiosks to user interfaces on industrial robotic systems, touchscreens have become ubiquitous. Although your list may be extensive, there are probably some touchscreen use cases you’d miss: technology used in prisons.

You may immediately think of touchscreen interfaces that help guards monitor activity with surveillance systems, but this technology can do much more to address challenges in high-security environments. For example, touchscreen solutions can:

Minimize interaction
Prison environments are different than any other. The goal of the solutions you provide isn’t to increase engagement and interaction. It’s to minimize it. With a touchscreen solution, prison visitors can check in on their own, take a photo for an ID badge, and indicate which inmate they want to see without interacting with a guard.

Eliminate cash handling
Touchscreen kiosks allow prison visitors to load funds into an inmate’s commissary account using digital payments. Guards won’t need to handle cash, and transactions, from deposits and use at the commissary, are always transparent, building trust and preventing illegal activity.

Allow prisoners to communicate securely
Prisons can implement touchscreen solutions that enable prisoners to communicate with family and friends via video chat. Security technology allows guards to monitor conversations and ensure that the information that prisoners and the people they’re chatting with share doesn’t violate laws. In addition to supporting good morale by providing contact with the outside world, the privilege to use solutions for video chats can also be an incentive for good behavior.

Generate revenue
Touchscreen solutions that require prisoners to pay to communicate with family and friends or manage commissary accounts can also generate revenue for the prison through residuals on transactions.  

Helps overcome labor shortage challenges
Prisons have struggled with labor shortages for some time, and the pandemic amplified the problem. For example, the U.S. Justice Department budgeted for more than 20,000 full-time correctional officers in 2020 but employed only about 14,000 in May 2021. Touchscreen solutions that automate processes help prisons assign resources where they’re most needed and leave tasks that can be managed with self-service models up to technology.

Why Touchscreens for Prison Technology?
People of all ages and walks of life could interact with kiosks in prisons, making touchscreen interfaces the best option. Many people are familiar with touchscreens from using mobile devices, so they don’t need any training. On the other hand, some prisoners have been incarcerated for decades and may have never had the opportunity to use a tablet or smartphone – but they still catch on to using intuitive touchscreens quickly.

The range of touchscreens, typically from 15 to 27 inches in size for prison applications, and wall-mounted for free-standing options, allow prisons to deploy the right solutions for their use cases. Also, tempered glass touchscreens are available, which are essential for prison solutions. Solution providers must ensure that the glass can’t be broken to prevent shards from being used as weapons. Similarly, kiosks and touchscreen enclosures must be constructed with rigorous attention to detail, ensuring that they can’t be dismantled.

Solutions providers may be able to borrow designs from ATMs to develop the secure, tamper-proof kiosks and touchscreen enclosures necessary for a high-security environment.  

A Growing Solution Provider Opportunity, Unfortunately
Prisons and jails will, regrettably, always be necessary, and local, state, and federal government agencies frequently update them or construct new facilities. Implementing tech solutions using touchscreen interfaces can be part of those facility upgrades to address challenges by increasing automation, visibility and trust – and decreasing conflict.

Solutions providers have an opportunity to grow their businesses by providing touchscreen solutions to essential but often-overlooked use cases in prisons.