Innovation Showcase

A collections of apps and other innovations fundamentally altering practice in the criminal justice and substance misuse sectors.

Digital revolution

The main purpose of this blog is to keep readers up-to-date with new developments in the criminal justice and substance misuse sectors. Posts typically deal with new policy, research and practice developments. Since the blog was launched in 2011, the digital revolution has picked up pace: Apps which have completely changed the way in which we communicate, find our news and measure our fitness are now starting to infiltrate our working world. The first products were basic and were too clunky to be adopted in the real world. Recent developments are not only much more fit-for-purpose but are starting to change the ways criminal justice and drug and alcohol professionals work and the way in which they interact with their clients and the general public.


In order to keep up with these new developments, I’ve launched this new section of the site which I’m calling: “The Innovation Showcase” with the purpose of:
  1. Assembling all the best apps and other innovations in one place
  2. Reviewing their features and assessing their effectiveness
  3. Encouraging readers to feedback their own experiences and suggest other innovations to review.
The showcase is divided into three main sections: criminal justice; substance misuse; and other/miscellany  – new innovations are featured in sub-categories under each section. For every app or other innovation, there is a brief word description with a link to a full review. Please Email me with any ideas of innovations that should be featured or any other suggestions on the showcase idea.

Criminal Justice


Y-Stop Y-STOP have developed a new app to make it easier for people to complain about stop and search. Aimed at young people, it allows anyone who has been treated badly by the police or thinks something unlawful happened to report their experience directly from the app. The Y-Stop app lets users Report their stop and search experiences or ones they witness; Record video/audio of the police interactions and send it to Y-Stop; Connect with lawyers and experts for support; Make a complaint directly to police and Know what their rights are. You can find my full review here. Self-evident Self Evident is a free app that records, validates and secures evidence. Designed primarily as a crime reporting app, it also lets you file a report for work, notify an adviser or business of a claim, send the media a news story or just secure the evidence in your private account. It is supported by the Mayor of London and Victim Support and promoted as an easy way to record and report evidenc of hate crimes. A full account will soon be published on this site.


The US State of New Jersey is trying a new algorithm to fix its broken bail system, a flashpoint for criminal justice advocates who argue that court-assessed  fines can discriminate against low-income and highly policed communities—most often, people of colour. The algorithm is designed to mathematically assess the risk of defendants fleeing or committing a crime—particularly a violent one—before their trial date. You can find my full review here.


Innovation Hub The Intervention Hub offers a suite of nine programmes using Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CCBT). The programmes can be accessed via any computer, smart phone, tablet that has access to the internet irrespective of operating system. Programmes can be operated by the service user themselves at any time of day or can be accessed alongside a professional to aid discussion and learning. You can find my full review here. PBNI A new app designed to assist offenders to desist from crime has been launched by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland. The app also provides information on PBNI’s victim information scheme. The app has information about the rights and responsibilities of being on probation, as well as information on getting help for mental health and addiction problems. It also includes a very simple journal function. This is a basic app which the PBNI intends to develop over time. You can find my full review here. Socrates 360 A suite of apps designed to work both in prison (on prison-provided tablets) and on release (on either released prisoners’ own smartphones or handsets provided for them by prisons – currently being rolled out across 39 prisons in England and Wales) is still in development but already covers help with education, employment, health and wellbeing as well as being a means for communication between offenders and their supervising probation officers. You can find my full review here. OSM A new US app developed in response to request from a judge in Oregon enables comprehensive supervision functions including: GPS monitoring, blood alcohol monitoring, court and appointment reminders and a basic incentive and sanction system. GPS supervision is one third of the cost of an electronic anklet and much more discreet for the offender. You can find my full review here.


National Prison Radio Straightline is a new app from the team behind National Prison Radio aims to provide prisoners with support in their first week after release. The content is simple, but of very high quality, seven films presented by former prisoners, designed to help people find their feet in the crucial days after they leave prison. Their stories are inspiring and seek to help people just to answer questions about who they are and what direction they’re going. Excitingly, the app is just the first step in building an online support community for released prisoners. You can find my full review here.   Inside Connections is a new app designed by John Burton, who served a six-year sentence for drug charges. Drawing on the difficulties being in prison, John designed the application to assist families in tracking their relatives in the prison system. Important paperwork can be scanned into the app and details of work history and qualifications can also be uploaded. The application includes solicitor reviews, a prisoner art gallery and a CV creator that is linked to any work experience gained in prison that is stored in the application. You can find my full review here. Safe Innovations Not an app this time but a radical new model for prison design. Using Leeds as a case study, Safe Innovations propose  a domestic scale model for local authority funded rehabilitation hubs providing stabilisation, education and skills creating employment and opportunities for both prisoners and communities. They argue that prisoners should be able to access these hubs during custodial sentences to develop the protective factors that encourage criminal desistance. You can find my full review here. Sky Fence Sky Fence is an electronic device which creates a 2,000ft shield around and above Guernsey prison that will detect and deflect the remote-controlled drones used to deliver drugs. It uses a series of “disruptors”, which are sensors to jam the drone’s computer, and block its frequency and control protocols. The operator’s screen will go black and the drone will be bounced back to where it came from. You can find my full review here.

Crime patterns

A fascinating recent British Journal of Criminology article examined the usefulness of Twitter in predicting crime rates in London boroughs.  Matthew Williams, Pete Burnap and Luke Sloan found that disorder-related posts on Twitter are associated with actual police crime rates, although only in low-crime neighbourhoods. You can find my full review here.

Substance Misuse

Harm Reduction

U-turn U-turn training has launched a vitally important harm reduction app which is the first of its kind in giving advice on emergency care for someone who has overdosed on heroin on another opiate. The app includes step by step instructions on how to administer naloxone and basic life support. Features include different pathways depending on the condition of the casualty, audible guidance, ‘press button’ options and a tutorial on opiate overdose. The app is currently only available on Android; you can find my full review here.   BACtrack Skyn US company has launched a wearable alcohol biosensor which passively tracks alcohol consumption in real time. Samples can be taken as frequently as every second, can be sent from the wrist device to a smartphone, and if desired, to a cloud server for further distribution. By making the device much more wearable — out in public most people would assume it was a wearable fitness device — the company has immediately made it attractive to anyone wanting to control their own alcohol use. You can find my full review here. Tweet2Quit Tweet2Quit is a new American approach to helping people stop smoking. It sends twice-daily automated communications to encourage frequent and concurrent check-in, and forms small intimate Twitter groups that start immediately and are closed to new members, and are deliberately of limited duration. A randomised controlled trial found the approach doubled people’s chance of quitting when added to nicotine patches and stop smoking advice. You can read my full review here. Smoking cessation in prison Breaking Free has produced a new digital smoking cessation intervention designed specifically for use in prisons. The intervention can be used on a stand-alone basis on in conjunction with Nicotine Replacement Therapy, medication or e-cigarettes. The intervention integrates 26 evidence-based behaviour change techniques, drawing on cognitive-behavioural therapy, mindfulness, motivational enhancement therapy and relapse prevention and can be supported by 3 x 1-hour group programme sessions. You can read my full review here.


Breaking Free This app is a companion to the Breaking Free Online treatment and recovery programme. Because most people have their smartphones with them all the time, the app helps bring the learning from the programme into everyday life and focuses on a range of tools and techniques including mindfulness videos to provide instant help to manage cravings;  notifications of high risk places and the essential coping strategies that are personally selected to help overcome potential triggers to relapse as well as nudges to follow through on specific items in individual recovery plans. You can find my full review here. Intelligent fingerprinting A new non-invasive portable drug screening system from Intelligent Fingerprinting is easy to use, and takes only 10 minutes to find out whether an individual has recently used amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine or opiates. Fingerprint sample collection takes only a few seconds and is dignified and hygienic, making it particularly convenient for treatment agencies as there is no need for specialist collection facilities or biohazardous waste disposal. You can find my full review here.


Bright Sky Hestia, the largest provider of domestic abuse refuge services across London have developed Bright Sky – an app designed for people experiencing domestic abuse or for people concerned about a friend or family member they believe may be experiencing domestic abuse. The app provides a questionnaire to help people decide whether they are in an abusive relationship; a diary to record abuse which can be stored off the phone for safety reasons and details about help agencies. You can find my full review here. Streetlink StreetLink is an app which enables the public to alert local authorities in England and Wales about people sleeping rough in their area. It offers the public a means to act when they see someone sleeping rough, and is the first step someone can take to ensure rough sleepers are connected to the local services and support available to them. The service is funded by Government as part of its commitment to end rough sleeping. You can read my full review here.