How wearable devices and kiosks are opening up a world of resources for incarcerated people

Sponsored by Tyler Technologies

By Laura Neitzel, Staff at BrandFocus Corrections1

Every day, I can use my smartphone to check my bank balance, watch a video, order food delivery, check into my health club, join a video call, take training, and book appointments.

With VendEngine, families can make deposits to resident accounts 24/7.

With VendEngine, families can make deposits to resident accounts 24/7. (Getty Images)

Prisoners do not have the same luxury. But, through VendEngine’s mobile devices and apps, they can have similar experiences in a prison or correctional facility.

VendEngine provides prisons and correctional facilities with kiosks, tablets, and wearable devices that open up a world of life-changing resources for those incarcerated. Designed specifically to integrate with any facility management system, VendEngine’s cloud-based platform offers residents digital services ranging from email, video calls and SMS to fund management , Commissary Commands, and Legal and Educational Resources.

“Having safe and secure access to certain basic and essential services through technology has proven time and time again to enable an incarcerated person to have a better outcome upon release,” said Silas Deane, Founder of VendEngine. “They stay connected to their family, to their work and can use the tools at their disposal to prepare for a successful return.” At the same time, VendEngine provides prison officers and prison administrators with surveillance and situational awareness tools that keep them and their residents safe.

Working across three distinct stakeholders, prison administrators, families, and incarcerated individuals, the VendEngine platform provides a flow of information into a shared dataset that ensures everyone’s well-being and improves prison operations. prison. Here are some of the key features accessible to inmates using kiosks, tablets or handhelds.

Fiduciary accounting

The heart of the VendEngine system is a financial accounting system, CorrectPay, which integrates a publicly accessible website, where family members and others can make deposits directly into a resident’s account, and a portal resident, through which incarcerated people can check their fund balance. , view transactions and pay bills.

Commissary order platform

The Commissary Order Module allows residents to place Commissary orders through an image-based point-of-sale system. Because the system accesses the resident’s complete profile, including electronic health records, any food orders placed by the resident will respect their specific dietary intakes or restrictions. Orders are routed through the Prison Commissioner or a third-party vendor for delivery to the resident, while each transaction is tracked to ensure the Commissioner’s items are delivered accurately.

Medical requests

If the resident needs medical attention or a prescription refill, they can submit a medical request through the portal. The request is forwarded directly to the care team for evaluation and response. This allows for quicker access to appropriate care for the incarcerated person by eliminating the need for prison staff to relay the inmate’s requests to medical staff.

Complaints management system

One of the most powerful features of the VendEngine platform is the grievance management system.

“The incarcerated individual can literally go to the kiosk, tablet or handheld computer for free and file their grievance. This is immediately sent to the administration for response,” Deane said. “If the person is not satisfied with the answer, they can also use the system to file one or more appeals.”

Importantly, the grievance system provides a safe way for a resident to privately and discreetly file a complaint against another resident or correctional officer, if needed, without feeling intimidated, ensuring that the complaint be recorded and processed appropriately.

“People incarcerated may feel like they have no way to seek protection or be taken seriously,” said Mandye Robinson, general manager of corrections at Tyler Technologies, which recently acquired VendEngine. “With this complaints system, there is also a process for investigating these complaints to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.”

Filing complaints electronically also allows prison staff to avoid the potential risks of face-to-face interaction with an aggrieved person and provides a record of responses and actions.

PREA and suicide alerts

Another module that helps keep inmates safe is the instant alert system that allows a resident to self-report AER situations or report a suicide attempt. Notifications go directly to designated personnel for immediate action so residents can be removed from an unsafe situation. “This module has literally saved dozens of lives,” Deane said.

Visits by email, SMS and video

The ability to maintain connections with friends and family on the outside is known to improve resident well-being and reduce recidivism, but in many facilities the cost of making a phone or video call is often prohibitive. VendEngine keeps the cost of emails, texts, phone calls and video visits low for incarcerated people and free for family members so they can maintain strong relationships without breaking the bank. Using artificial intelligence tools, email messages and videos are monitored in real time, recorded and stored for later retrieval if needed.

Legal and educational resources

The VendEngine legal portal also offers access to a free, up-to-date digital law library that includes both state and federal laws.

“We provide them with comprehensive, free law libraries and other features so that the resident feels like they have the power to research and reference their own cases,” Deane said. “Access to legal libraries is a fundamental right for any incarcerated person.

Other modules available through the portal allow incarcerated individuals to watch self-help videos, learn soft skills, take GED courses, learn a trade, and earn certification that will help them. to put themselves on a more solid footing when they reintegrate into society.

Giving incarcerated residents digital access to a law library and educational resources not only helps the individual prepare for life on the outside, but also helps prison staff. Allowing them to search for their cases from a kiosk, tablet or handheld device in their living block reduces the time correctional officers spend moving inmates around the facility.

Preparing for life on the outside

When an incarcerated person approaches their release date, they can access additional resources to help them prepare for life on the outside.

  • The VendEngine Work Release Management module allows institutions to manage the movement, income, fines and fees of internship residents.
  • VendEngine also helps connect residents with outside resources such as placement programs, housing and nutrition assistance programs, mental health and education resources, transportation and personal development programs so that they can have the support they need to thrive when they get out of prison.

Use data to see the big picture

With every action ─ whether responding to a medical or claim inquiry, forwarding a stewardship request, or screening communications ─ VendEngine creates an electronic record. These electronic records are accessible from the administrative side of the platform so prison administrators can get an accurate and up-to-date picture of their health, activities, case status, concerns, and progress. towards liberation.

Having one set of data from multiple sources helps ensure that facility staff have the most up-to-date information and can make better decisions on behalf of facilities, prison staff and inmates.

“I think it’s important for people to understand that we pay for incarceration one way or another, whether it’s financially or through hardship for families,” Robinson said. “Creating solutions that help meet people where they are helps solve these problems. Technology is just one part of a bigger picture that helps solve the burden of incarceration. »

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