Wednesday Webinar: Using technology to reduce reoffending

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05 January 2021

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At our webinar in December, we were delighted to be joined by Aiden Shilson-Thomas, author of think tank Reform’s recent report on digital technology in prisons.

Register for our upcoming event on education at HMP Bronzefield here

At the event, which was chaired by Dr Victoria Knight of De Montfort University, Aiden explained how the pandemic has helped to create a climate which enables conversations about digital technology in prisons.

Prison authorities have put strict restrictions in place to try to avoid Covid outbreaks. Face to face education has been temporarily suspended and many third party resettlement services have been unable to enter the prison. Digital technology could help to mitigate some consequences of the lockdown.

Reform’s report provides an up-to-date assessment of the potential for digital services in prisons, and describes key areas they think the government must focus on for progression.

Digital technology would also support staff efficiency which in turn enables staff to spend more time supporting prisoners. Other benefits are access to education and learning materials and improving resettlement outcomes.

Read the PLA’s briefing on digital technology around the world here

Aiden outlined five key ways to ensure a new strategy would be successful:

  • During the design and implementation of digital services, all groups of service users must be consulted to create a needs-based strategy. This should include prisoners, prison staff of all levels, digital service providers, rehabilitative service providers, and charities working with prisoners.
  • Politicians must adopt a balanced approach to risk, using due diligence and accepting some level of risk. Clear guidance should underpin this approach.
  • Whilst there will be some recurring spending on maintenance, there also needs to be a one-off capital investment to adapt the prison estate.
  • Knowledge-sharing – there’s an active community of developers, businesses and academics who are working on digital solutions in prisons in the UK and abroad. Businesses and the public sector should work together to learn from each other to have the same understanding of what will work.
  • Training and consultation must be used throughout the design process, and will be essential to manage change and to enable people to use the technology effectively.

A question and answer with Victoria, Aiden and the audience covered these themes in more depth, and also touched on prison staff training, designing technology to meet the needs of all groups of users, public opinion towards technology in prison, and evidence and outcomes. Listen to the full webinar on our SoundCloud page.


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