Interaction design for prisons

Subject: Interaction design for prisons
From: "Chuck Martin" <cm -at- writeforyou -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2004 10:17:20 -0800

I stumbled across an interesting article that ran under what I considered an
alarmist headline about online legal databases being made available in
prisons. Apparently, prisons are required to provide inamtes access to legal
information, and doing so can be quite expensive. Not only is there the cost
of the volumes of materials, but the cost of regular updates and of
replacing materials that have been defaced.

A company has put kiosks in a few prison libraries. These kiosks consist of
"a touch-screen computer monitor covered in shatterproof glass inside a
steel box bolted to a wall." Apparently these didn't even shatter under the
force of crowbar blows.

This system must have presented an interesting design challenge for both
hardware and software. The hardware must be as vandalism-proof as possible,
yet the system must be designed to accommodate users who have a wide variety
of knowledge and ability.

Yet the article (at
says that not only inmates are able to use the system well, one librarian
uses it as well because she finds it faster and easier.

I'll bet the design process for this system must have been fascinating, not
to mention a bit challenging because of what I imagine must have been some
interesting hoops to jump through to do usability testing.

Chuck Martin
User Assistance & Experience Engineer
twriter "at" sonic "dot" net

"I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. The day
may come when the courage of Men fail, when we forsake our friends and
break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day! This day, we fight!"
- Aragorn

"All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given you."
- Gandalf


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