Making the Case for Digital Technology to the Minister for Prisons

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14 February 2019

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In this blog, Ruth McFarlane, co-chair of the Digital Technology Task and Finish Group, talks about her recent meeting with the Minister for Prisons to discuss developing digital technology, together with the PLA chair and PLA Member Prisoners’ Education Trust.

At the PLA conference in September 2018, the membership gave a clear steer that developing the use of technology for education in prisons was the top priority. Since then the Task and Finish group have prepared a summary of the reasons why this is so important and have gathered some examples of best practice in this area.

We sent this to Justice Secretary David Gauke, which led to us being invited to speak to Prisons Minister Rory Stewart. We were very encouraged by his positive reaction and willingness to develop the use of technology. He clearly sees many benefits for education and specifically said he does not want the whole focus to be on supporting people to get jobs, but recognised the value of education in its own right.

There is already some investment in the IT infrastructure happening in prisons and we discussed how we might capitalise on this. Obviously money is tight, so we need to consider partnerships and possible investors.

In terms of next steps, the Minister asked the civil servants at the meeting to come up with a clear plan about what was feasible over one year and five years. The PLA have a meeting with HMPPS and the Ministry of Justice to take this forward. The Minister has also agreed to meet us again in six weeks’ time to review progress.

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