The sheer versatility of the Linux kernel truly knows no bounds. It can be found, literally, everywhere. From your local library to your local big box retailer, Linux is barely a stone’s throw away. There are very few places in the world that can be considered Linux-free. A small tribal village? Maybe. A shade tree mechanic? Possibly. A Prison? Well … not really. That’s right. It seems that Linux has been sent to the joint, and it poised to be there for a very long time.
Linux is being sent to prison in an effort to streamline correctional institution management and inmate education; primarily in Australian prisons. Linux’s introduction into the Australian prison system comes in the form of the PrisonPC produced by Cyber IT Solutions. According to Cyber IT Solutions, PrisonPC provides:
“a range of required functions and services supporting basic numeracy and literacy education, work-place reentry programmes, vocational and distance education, integrated digital television, and other entertainment options.”(1)
In short, the software’s main focus is prisoner education and entertainment.
However, it seems that PrisonPC is more than just a Learning Management System for prisons, it has also been designed to aid in prison management. PrisonPC can also filter email, which only allows access to designated individuals such as inmate lawyers. Moreover, Cyber IT Solutions states, that the software can not only restrict web access, but it can also restrict access to the entire desktop environment through the enforcement of configured curfews.
In its latest release of the software (September 2015), Cyber IT Solutions introduced IPTV functionality. According to the press release (2):
“PrisonPC IPTV replaces legacy television sets … [which] negates the need to have a separate, unmanaged television set and offers education providers the ability to make on-demand educational content available to inmates.”
PrisonPC is built upon the Linux kernel and utilizes a modified Ubuntu operating system that essentially locks the user, in this case the inmate, out of any functionality that could cause an issue (3). For example, PrisonPC computers (the company also can provide the hardware) contain no hard-drive, USB storage, or writable DVD/CD prohibiting the user from making any modifications to the system. Additionally, 3G modems, USB drives, WiFi controllers, webcams, and Bluetooth transceivers are blocked by default, prohibiting their use in the event such devices are smuggled into the facility by an inmate. And the list of security features goes on.
The linux-based system is so versatile that many institutions implement PrisonPC in a number of different ways. For instance, the Alexander Maconochie Centre utilizes the Learning Management functionality and the restricted email filtering; while Marngoneet Correctional Centre uses it to support their Integrate dLibrary System.(4)
PrisonPC provides a much needed service to both prison inmates and prison officials. A service that has been built with the Linux kernel at its core.
For more information about PrisonPC visit their website at: http://www.prisonpc.com/
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5. Image credit: PrisonPC.com