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Prison and Probation commit to digital future

HMPPS sets out bold digital strategy for 2021/22

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HMPPS digital modernisation

Earlier this week (15 June 2021), Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service published its Digital, Data & Technology Strategy. To be frank this sort of government document is normally as dull as ditch-water and irritating to read because of the high-density of hard-to-translate management speak. However, this (mercifully short) strategy document promises some profound changes which many staff in prison and probation services have been requesting for years.

The strategy sets out five objectives to be achieved by 2024:

  1. Provide staff with up to date IT equipment and applications, so they can work effectively, efficiently and collaboratively.
  2. Replace legacy systems with simpler, clearer, faster digital services, allowing staff to focus more time on the individual and their needs, rather than the administration of their case.
  3. Give people in our care the digital tools & technology to support their rehabilitation.
  4. Make video conferencing accessible to everyone, building rehabilitative relationships for people in prison & on probation, their families & friends and staff supporting them.
  5. Capture, store and share high quality data across our services leading to better and faster decision-making about people in our care.

Up-to-date equipment

The strategy commits HMPPS to roll out new desktops and laptops to prison staff (the initial target is to get these into 14 prisons by this Christmas). It also commits to move prison systems off Quantum and onto Cloud-based platforms and to make sure everyone has the same software, including Microsoft Teams.

A visually impaired prisoner using a computer adapted for braille
© Andy Aitchison

Replace legacy systems

If HMPPS can succeed in getting rid of the unreliable, under-specced key records and monitoring systems , then prison and probation staff will be cheering from the rafters. Currently many thousands of hours of probation staff time are wasted because of inaccessible systems which frequently lose completed work. The strategy commitments for this year read like a Christmas wish-list:

  • Develop a long term strategy for replacing existing systems by 2024 such as NOMIS, Oasys & Delius.
  • Redesign how we create a prisoner record, issue licences and calculate sentences.
  • Continue to grow and improve our live services such as the digital Prisoner Escort Service and Manage a Prison Offender Manager (POM) case services. 
  • Scope the digital provision for facilities management. 
  • Develop a plan for and start delivering digital education in prisons.
  • Implement key functionality and infrastructure that staff need ahead of probation unification.
  • Redesign how we find, book and manage interventions for people on probation.
  • Redesign how we assess risk and prepare a case for sentence for people on probation.
  • Redesign our end-to-end sentence management, including how we plan, monitor and enforce community sentences.

Digital tools for service users

HMPSS also commits to put phones in cells in closed prison and “start our journey” to ensure every prisoner has access to a laptop or tablet with the initial target of implementing in-cell technology in 9 prisons this year. There are also commitments to roll out in-cell tech for the whole Youth estate and, interesting, scope how “to give people on probation a role in their sentence using digital & technology”.

Video conferencing

Video conferencing has of course been accelerated by the pandemic. HMPPS commitments for this year are to:

  • Reprocure prison video calling software and redesign a more effective and efficient visits booking service.
  • Reprocure video conferencing in probation and design a more effective and efficient way to manage remote supervision.
  • Develop an integrated video conferencing strategy across HMPPS including wider MOJ.

Of course we must wait to see whether HMPPS can deliver on these objectives and how long it takes to roll out modern tech to staff and service users but a bold announcement of the right objectives is an essential first step.

 

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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2 Responses

  1. Indeed, it seem that Probation services are the only one not supporting video interviews in 21st century and consequently making terrible life impending changes to young , first time “out of character ” offenders, due to inappropriate assessments.
    It is bad enough to be judged by algorithm and person who does not know you, but you are judged only by voice, so if PO does not like your voice, or feels that you might not be remorseful, your luck have finished here!
    Sickening, but irrelevant until it happens to your close ones…

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