Jacket is an application targeting a low bandwidth audience of inmates in correctional centres. The web platform is for inmates to use and eliminates the paperwork by giving them access to educational programs, requesting appointments for health concerns and ordering from the commissary.
Learning about what the inmates go through in their day to day lives helped me understand some of the difficulties they face, which is not at all what popular media likes to show for entertainment. I had the opportunity to sit down with a correctional centre officer who told me a simple process like ordering a notebook could take up to 3 months. I realized there was a big gap between the technology outside and the correctional centres in Canada today.
I wanted to design an interactive platform where inmates can have some sort of control over the decisions they make inside the institution by using this web platform without needing to contact outside sources or waiting for an answer for days. The platform has limited but effective assets such as enrolling into educational programs, requesting appointments for check-up, and ordering from the commissary. Jacket, in prison slang, refers to an inmate’s personal file. I thought using an informal language would make the app more engaging and less authoritative for the user.
I contextualized my research in Canada and chose the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in order to create a persona and do in depth analysis of day to day activities inmates go through. I had the opportunity to talk to a correctional centre officer and conducted usability testings with her. The secondary research includes Canadian government’s website regarding British Columbia correctional centres, a podcast produced in a prison called Ear Hustle, and documentaries about the correctional centres in Canada.
As I unpacked the project, I realized I made a mistake by thinking it could be a tablet application. My user tests and research have shown that a tablet application could be out of context for many reasons: correctional centres would have to acquire them and the application would be resembling a social media site rather than what it really is. Therefore I decided to let my research dictate my design guidelines.
For my user journey I decided create a persona who wants to use the Jacket platform to enroll into the Emotion Management Educational Program so she can reduce her sentence by a couple of months. I decided to use a similar color palette to the interface used my prison staff, which I got to test my product on. I added a bright purple to break the formality a little bit. This allowed the website to be far more approachable and light weight.
Consistency: Achieved by keeping the gestures consistent and have the users rely on their intuition while interacting with the UI.
Availability: Having the application installed in all library computers. Expanding the availability this way reduces the cost for everyone having their own tablets.
Inclusivity: The illustrations were a design decision made to create a website that promotes inclusivity. I wanted to draw non-binary humanoid shapes with different bodies and skin tones to achieve that.
Representation in Design
I wanted to keep the design modern and relatable. I started with creating an application. However, I realized this approach was harder to become accessible for the inmates. Therefore, I decided to design a website instead. I wanted to create illustrations that promoted inclusivity. My main challenge was keeping the website related to correctional centres but having them appear less formal. I was also thinking about how I can design an interface that is understandable by someone who may have not had any exposure to interfaces because they have been in a correctional centre before contemporary UI designs existed.