Harnessing the Power of Technology in the Criminal Justice Sector

Alex Zlatinova
July 24, 2023

In the pursuit of a more effective and rehabilitative justice system, the recent Modernising Criminal Justice Conference on 22nd June 2023, provided a platform for in-depth discussions on various topics, including reducing re-offending, utilizing technology for the greater good, improving rehabilitation chances, and fostering partnerships in the criminal justice sector. As the dust settles after the event, it is time to reflect on the discussions and focus our efforts on creating a better-operating justice system.

During the conference, the Ministerial Keynote was delivered by Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, Minister of State. His compelling speech delved into critical aspects of criminal justice reform, with a particular focus on prisons, probation, and reducing re-offending. Minister Hinds emphasized the pressing need for effective rehabilitation programs within prisons, highlighting the importance of equipping prisoners with the necessary tools and support for successful reintegration into society. He also stressed the significance of creating a safe and secure prison environment that fosters positive change and encourages personal growth.

Unilink Software, a leading innovator in designing systems for enabling and supportive prison environments, has been at the forefront of this movement for the past 30 years. With a reputation for innovative problem-solving in prison and probation settings, Unilink has made significant strides in revolutionizing the way technology is used to empower prisoners.

One notable contribution by Unilink has been the development of offender self service that gives people in prison more autonomy over their daily lives. Research has shown that prisoners feel our software provides them with increased independence, control, and confidence, supporting the processes of rehabilitation and desistance (Dougall et al., 2016). Some key features of Unilink's software include promoting family contact through the ability to arrange visits, email family and friends, and engage in video sessions. Additionally, prisoners can exercise greater autonomy over their prison life by checking account balances, ordering meals, and purchasing items from the prison shop. The software also supports rehabilitation and addresses digital exclusion by providing access to educational courses and work regimes. Furthermore, Unilink piloted Samaritans messaging for those prisoners who feel the need for additional support.

Building on this foundation, Unilink has initiated closer collaborations with prison partners to tackle social problems within prisons. In collaboration with Serco, Unilink developed a highly innovative application called Alert, Intervene & Monitor (AIM). This tool analyses patterns of behaviour and identifies individuals who may be more at risk of suicide or self-harm. AIM was developed from a successful Serco proof of concept. Through extensive user research and analysis of prisoner transactional data, Unilink integrated additional risk factors for suicide and self-harm into the AIM application.

Shifting the focus to probation, Minister Hinds acknowledged its vital role in facilitating the successful transition of offenders back into the community. He emphasized the importance of proactive supervision and support during the probationary period, as these factors significantly contribute to reducing the likelihood of re-offending. The government has committed to strengthening probation services and enhancing their effectiveness.

In line with Minister Hinds' vision, Unilink has developed the MyProbation Mobile application, currently being piloted by The Probation Service. This application aims to bridge the communication divide between individuals on probation and their probation officers. By improving communication and providing practical support, especially during the challenging period of readjustment after release or while under community supervision, the MyProbation Mobile application has the potential to yield significant benefits. Engaging individuals early in their sentences and establishing clear procedural expectations during probationary periods can contribute to improved outcomes.

At Unilink, we firmly believe in the transformative power of technology to create a better-operating and more rehabilitative justice environment. By harnessing this power through our innovative solutions, such as offender self-service, and the AIM and MyProbation Mobile applications, we strive to support the efforts and dedication highlighted by Minister Hinds. By leveraging technology, we can help bridge gaps, enhance communication, and empower people in prison and on probation to successfully reintegrate into society while reducing the likelihood of re-offending.

As we move forward, it is crucial for stakeholders in the criminal justice sector to embrace technology and collaborate with innovative partners like Unilink. By doing so, we can collectively work towards a justice system that not only ensures public safety but also offers meaningful rehabilitation opportunities and paves the way for a brighter future for individuals in contact with the criminal justice system. Let us harness the power of technology to build bridges and create lasting positive change in the criminal justice sector.