Indian prisons are in the dark ages. The condition of the prison depends massively on the leadership at the prison and regional level given that the infrastructure is usually wanting and underfunded. Systems in the prison such as those supporting legal processes that prisoners participate in, the welfare of the prisoners, payment transactions between prisoners and their families, and the overall upkeep and tracking of the prisons, are mostly broken. This has resulted in the growth of a number of exploitative practices and rent seeking beneficiaries that result in the poor performance of the system as a whole and the suffering of all the stakeholders concerned, not just the prisoners but also the prison staff. The present technology solutions that are available, mostly created by the NIC, are not implemented at the prison level. Some level of basic data entry happens to ensure that rules are complied with but the systems do not enhance the quality of operations of the prison or improve the well-being of the stakeholders. This issue is not called out often enough because better possibilities have not been adequately experienced.
The source of the innovation of Phoenix comes from the fact that it was born out of a collaboration between an ex-prisoner and a prison official. The prison official could clearly see the challenges of running the prison the way it was being run. The prisoner knew exactly the pain points from the perspective of the prisoners. This makes for a potent combination where the founding team has the empathy, the insights and the technical ability to design solutions challenging existing norms and practices.
It is highly unusual for such an empathetic design to come into government systems, much less find the backing of prison authorities in seeking its adoption. Retaining synchronicity with the Jail Manual of the state whilst driving automation of operations and workflow through digitization is a thread that is held by Phoenix. Some areas where they have innovated considerably are in (i) developing a cashless canteen (ii) prisoner interview system (iii) eCustody system (iv) court production management system and (v) hospital management system