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Core Systems, global experts in prisoner self-service technology solutions, has accessed expertise from Ulster University to further develop its latest software product, which is improving prisoner rehabilitation and streamlining criminal justice systems across the globe.

Part-funded by an Invest Northern Ireland Innovation Voucher, Core Systems enlisted support from experts at Ulster University’s state-of-the-art UX Lab to better understand how prisoners interact with its Direct2inmate software platform. Ulster University’s UX Lab works with industry to enhance usability of digital products to increase user efficiency and satisfaction.

The Direct2inmate platform provides prisoners with secure access to a range of applications including electronic messaging, e-learning, entertainment, shopping, meal ordering, facility requests and library services. Using cutting-edge biometric technology such as eye-trackers and video recording instruments, Ulster University researchers assessed prisoners’ usability of the software.

Prisoners’ usability of the Direct2inmate platform is central to enhancing their prison experience as well as their ICT and communication skills, and encouraging personal responsibility, all of which are vital for successful rehabilitation and reintegration into society. It is also provides staff with access to real-time tracking of inmate requests and communications, which drives efficiencies by streamlining the current paper-based request system.

Dr Raymond Bond, lead researcher from Ulster University’s UX Lab said: “The prison population has a high likelihood for having poor reading and writing skills. It is therefore vital that the technology is designed with the specific needs of inmates in mind.  

“Our research identified that a high percentage of inmates are verbally and physically expressive when they are frustrated as they struggle to use digital technologies. This has the potential to increase stress, leading to confrontational situations and conflict, which indeed negatively impacts the prisoner’s willingness to adopt new technologies.

“We discovered that the addition of visual feedback such as the confirmation of completed tasks would reduce prisoner uncertainty and frustration when using offender technologies. We also found that the lower than average literacy levels of prisoners meant that there is a need for smarter search engines that are typo-friendly.

“Ulster University’s UX Lab has helped the company create a more intuitive user journey, making the Direct2Inmate platform even more effective in terms of prisoner rehabilitation and streamlining operations.”

Patricia O'Hagan, Chief Executive Officer of Core Systems said: “Our technology, which runs on everything from personal tablet devices to fixed computer kiosks, plays a vital role in helping the criminal justice community achieve their goals. It has already been a huge success and is being used by over 150,000 prisoners in North America , Europe and Australia.

“The usability of the platform is key to its success and working with Ulster University’s UX Lab we have been able to introduce new features that will enhance long-term technology adoption by prisoners. This university collaboration has transformed our wider product development to focus more on evidence-based data driven design. We hope to work with Ulster University again in the future to learn more about user behaviour and boost our product offering.”