Swiss prison guards face the challenge to communicate with a variety of different people with different language and cultural backgrounds. Often times no common language can be found, which leaves guards and prisoners unable to communicate with each others. This can be very frustrating for both sides and can cause troubles in the daily prison life.
As part of my diploma project the following app was developed together with the help of a Swiss prison. The Jail Chat aims to improve intercultural communication in prisons. With a specific image lexicon it is possible to have a conversation without words. The app helps to overcome language barriers, makes daily prison live easier and makes it possible to have an intercultural conversation between guards and prisoners.
The creative the process was divided up in three parts. The first part consisted of a thorough research. Who are the people the guards have communication issues, where are they from, what cultural background do they have and what’s the visual comprehension in those countries. After determining various key phrases which needed to be communicated in prisons, key words where research and compared with different images found in those countries.
Based on the results of the research conducted in part one, a visual language was developed in the second part. How abstract can the language be in order to still be understood, what’s the best look for the images, so that prisoners feel taken serious and what does a single sign need to show in order to communicate exactly what is intended to. Finally an image lexicon was developed that answers all those questions the best.
In the third part an application was developed. It helps the communicate in a fast and intuitive way. The app divides the lexicon in different main categories, it gives suggestions once the first sign is written and it adapts to different culture background (for example reading directions) and is an easy way to talk without words in prison.
After testing the app a several times in prison, I am able to conclude that it is an immense help for the daily life in prison. Where there is no common language it helps to overcome language barriers and help to communicate basic needs. Of course the app has it limits in terms of complexity of a conversation, but it is a first approached to giving some one in a tough situation a voice. Now, I am working together with Swiss prisons to release the app. Further interests are shown by hospitals and refugee camps who would also like to use the app in the fields. Jail Chat is a intercultural translation without words that can be adapted in many different ways.