Stephen Smith, Director at ISM explains how prisons can utilise technology to boost efficiency and reduce reoffending rates.
With escalating populations and high reoffending rates, the need for alternative solutions in prisons and wider custodial environments is critical.
Not only can access to learning materials and continued education accelerate prisoner development rates and keep them motivated, this can create a safer environment for inmates and staff which is much more conducive to reducing reoffending rates. A reduced prisoner population positively contributes to driving down costs as well as controlling risks and society as a whole.
The custodial landscape
There have been two major challenges within the custodial market over the last 18 months: COVID-19 and staff shortages – both have brought different issues into sharp focus. With in-person visits banned during lockdown, to provide prisoners with face-to-face communication with friends and family, video calls have had to be used.
An increased number of prisoner movements are required for visits utilising video calling – this has placed additional pressures on the prison service which is already stretched as a result of staff shortages due to the pandemic. What is also surprising is the sheer number of manual actions still required by prison staff, including the issuing and collecting of paper forms and the need for these to be processed correctly. Like in many environments, reduced resources under pressure often leads to data input errors and mistakes are commonplace.
Repeat offending rates are still climbing in England and Wales which now has one of the highest percentages of recidivism globally, with 59% of adults reconvicted within one year of being released (72% within five years). The climbing costs and growing prison numbers are stifling and, without reform, will continue to be a major burden on the public purse. Compared to other countries such as Norway, there needs to be a change to stem this destructive cycle.
With all of these situational factors taken into account, the priority of prison reform has to be the utilisation of technology. Providing intelligent app solutions within the cell is the most logical way forward. By ensuring that prisoners have secure communications for video calls, can view work rotas and education resources, interact with entertainment channels, use support telephone lines and access food menu orders for the week, they are able to improve their personal welfare and mental health. These outcomes are beneficial to an environment that helps empower the prisoner to take control of their own future, ultimately resulting in reduced reoffending rates.
These key improvements are secure and also maximise resource efficiencies, in turn, creating further benefits that are seen across the entire prison operation. For example, the kitchen can be better stocked because the staff can ensure that the food selected by the prisoners is correctly ordered and received. Moreover, accessing e-learning in cells through a single portal removes network security issues and the need for network wi-fi expanders whilst empowering each and every prisoner to take charge of their own future.
Security, efficiency and compliance
ISM takes complex problems and simplifies the process, delivering enhancements in the security and safety of all parties. As a specialist in integrated security management solutions and a developer of cell call and intercom systems, ISM has supplied custodial solutions to many prisons within the UK, Europe and the Middle East. By understanding the pressing issues surrounding the criminal justice sector, ISM has developed an innovative, intuitive, robust, functional and cost-effective answer. Our Genesys solution is an application of technology which enables current and future detention facilities to reach new-found levels of security, efficiency and compliance.
Providing an intelligent solution in a cell was a major challenge; once convicted, prisoners enter a world where they have very little control over their own lives. Access to online education is limited and even making calls to friends and family can be challenging. This can lead to a prisoner-institutionalised mindset that struggles to understand a regime that is trying to rehabilitate.
The challenge for us was to develop a solution that allowed prisoners to have access to information and education alongside the statutory requirements for cell call, communications and entertainment systems. The Prison Reform Trust states that ‘The state of our prisons is a fair measure of the state of our society.’ Similarly, ISM believes that prisons should be just, humane and effective. By creating a safer environment in the cell and allowing access to information and education at all levels, detainees are provided with a mindset of control and can recognise the value of education.
Genesys Nano is an in cell, app-based, ruggedised information device that provides prisoners access to e-learning, work rotas, calendars, help lines, cell call and cell entertainment systems. Secure links are also provided to the Offender Management System and smart secure communications ensure that the prisoner is talking with people that have been approved to communicate with them, whilst in the privacy of their cell. Providing the prisoner with access to information, education, counselling and support creates a safer environment for all and is recognised as a key contributor to reducing reoffending rates.
By integrating disparate systems into one solution, cabling, rack space, power supplies and UPS requirements are reduced. Not only are efficiencies delivered in installation and service costs, the resulting minimised heat outputs reduce cooling requirements and running costs whilst also contributing to environmental key performance indicators. It is possible to build this solution into a single desk that can include power sockets, lighting control and cell lighting; only a single power cable and one Cat6 cable for each cell is required. Risk and time on site can be reduced by prebuilding the solution off site.
Understanding the sector and preparing for the future
ISM’s plans for the custodial sector for the next 12 months have been set out. We understand the pressures that are placed on this difficult and demanding sector by following our principles of looking at complex issues and simplifying the processes behind them, using proven, reliable technology that has the flexibility to grow and adapt to changing demands.
Our intelligent solution is a cyber-secure, robust app-based device that combines the essential cell call and communal TV with other applications such as secure video telephony with facial recognition. Not only can we ensure that the prisoner is speaking only to the correct, authorised users, our solution has the ability to link directly to the Samaritans or to a prison ‘buddy’ to provide emotional and mental health support.
Genesys, a CPNI approved information management solution (PSIM), is able to create simple technology-based solutions which have a significantly positive impact on efficiency; whether this be the ability for prisoners to be able to order their own meals online rather than manually filling out forms that get lost, forgotten or simply have incorrectly entries, the onus is placed back onto the prisoner.
Ultimately, our solution allows prisoners to receive and share information, thus providing control and creating accountability – we see this as a productive alternative to the relentless institutionalisation that, once ingrained, makes it difficult for prisoners to leave and have a rehabilitated life in society.
With much excitement building as the security industry prepares for the return of Intersec in January 2022, attending visitors and fellow exhibitors will be able to gain a more in-depth understanding of the Genesys system at the show. The ISM team look forward to meeting new and existing customers, showing our latest developments and listening to feedback from the market.
This article was originally published in the December edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, visit: digital.securityjournaluk.com