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Improving the prison leaver experience

A person being released from Pentonville prison
The deadline for the Prison Leaver Innovation Challenge is 12 p.m. Sunday 13 June.

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Innovation needed

Regular readers will know all about the Prison Leaver Innovation Challenge, a competition currently being run by the Ministry of Justice. There are still time for organisations to get their ideas submitted with the deadline this coming Sunday 13 June. Interested bidders are being asked to develop technical solutions to six well-established challenges for people leaving prison:

  1. Goal tracking to help build a positive, non-criminal activity
  2. Co-ordinating day of release appointments
  3. Lack of access to key documents such as ID
  4. Family relationships
  5. Building social capital with other supportive people and groups
  6. Specific help for people with learning difficulties and disabilities

 

At the time of writing the team at Public who are running the competition on behalf of the MoJ are encouraging  applicants to think about bidding for two of these key challenges – co-ordinating day of release appointments and lack of access to key documents. So, if you have ideas for tackling these issues in particular, please take the opportunity to get involved in this long-awaited competition.

Day of release appointments

The competition works by way of “challenge statements” to communicate the problems which competing organisations will be asked to solve. The challenge statement for the Day of Release appointments topic is:

Prison leavers’ engagement with key organisations on their day of release builds ongoing relationships with services that steer them away from reoffending. So how can we inform, coordinate, and update relevant stakeholders of a prisoner’s day of release details and key appointments?

The day of release has always been a stressful one for people leaving prison. While people spend months anticipating being free of the pains of incarceration and the joys of being reunited with family and friends, the reality can be rather more of a mixed experience. Everyone who is released is required to visit their supervising probation officer on the day of release. This is non-negotiable and non-attendance will almost certainly result in an instant recall to prison. For some people, this will involve a long journey and a visit to a probation office where they have never been. The logistics of travel and timings have to be negotiated.

The person coming out of prison then has to juggle going home to see family and friends with a number of other priority appointments. Obviously if someone is going to be spending the night in a hostel or other temporary accommodation, they will need to book in and make sure of their room for the night. Other people may need to go to a drug, alcohol or mental health treatment service to make sure they have support (and possibly a prescription to ensure they continue to receive medication given in prison). For the more than a third of people who are released from prison on a Friday, the challenges can be even harder with many organisations closing early for the weekend.

Organisations who can design solutions to make sure these day of release arrangements are clear, co-ordinated and communicated to all parties, will be addressing a long-known area of concern.

Woman being released from HMP Downview
© Andy Aitchison

Access to key documents

The challenge statement for this topic, described in the competition as “data store” and is reproduced here:

Lack of access to key documents and data such as ID, birth certificates and 5-year housing history prevents prison leavers from accessing jobs, housing and banking, increasing their likelihood of committing crime. So how can we enable prison leavers to collect, control and share their data with relevant stakeholders?

Having ID is such a small thing that most of us take for granted, but it is critical to accessing so many things in life including bank accounts, benefits, passports, tenancy agreements etc. Because we are a country that doesn’t have Identity Cards, many people in prison don’t have (or have lost or had stolen) a passport or driving licence or the supporting documents (birth certificate, bank statements, National Insurance Number) to get a form of identity. 

Because our identity is so important – and because identity theft is a growing problem in the modern world – getting proof of identity, or replacing one that has been lost or stolen – is usually quite a lengthy process.

People leaving prison often don’t have access to other important documents such as medical records to ensure that they can continued to get the medicines they received in prison prescribed for them on release.

If your organisation has a solution to this personal data store problem, please apply to the competition. Full details below.

The competition

The Prison Leavers Innovation Challenge is being run as a two-phased Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition.

Phase 1:

Up to 10 selected companies will receive Government funding of up to £25,000 to prototype their solution, culminating in a closed pitch day.

Phase 2:

Up to 4 selected companies will receive Government funding of up to £350,000, as well as mentorship support, to develop their solution and design a Pilot. Once set up, companies will run their pilots in ‘steady state’ for 1 year.

You can find all the official information here and apply for the Challenge here.

Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the images in this post. You can see Andy’s work here.

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