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Using technology to promote desistance
HMPPS are developing complementary digital media to help offenders on the Timewise Programme learn new skills to deal with life's problems.

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Digitally enhanced rehabilitation

Today’s post is based on a fascinating article by Jason Morris and Manpreet Kaur Bans from Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service: Developing digitally enabled interventions for prison and probation settings: a review.

The paper highlights some initial efforts within HMPPS to develop digitally enabled services supporting the rehabilitation of  service users; in particular the Timewise programme.


The Prison Safety and Reform White Paper included reference to the Timewise programme, a ten-session cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)-based offending behaviour programme (OBP) aimed to assist self-management amongst people engaged in custodial violence. The Timewise programme was piloted in six prisons and delivered by existing OBP facilitators on a one-to-one and group basis.

The approach of the Timewise programme fits  with the Good Lives Model of rehabilitation and the risk-need-responsivity approach to rehabilitation which advocates the use of CBT to help participants develop skills to change.

Like other offending behaviour programmes, the Timewise programme was delivered in learning environments reminiscent of conventional classroom settings. Facilitators used programme content to target participants’ individual needs whilst simultaneously managing highly challenging group dynamics. Facilitators used standard delivery techniques, including introducing skills and concepts through didactic presentations, supporting learning with flipcharts and worksheets, co-facilitating discussions, and completing skills practices to promote skills generalisation.

However, the Timewise programme also incorporated complementary digital media (CDM) clips. CDM is a technology-based strategy intended to motivate, inform, and build procedural understanding of coping skills via different forms of media. Timewise CDM clips consisted of animations that combined visual, auditory, and symbolic information.

CDM clips provided a step-by-step procedural animation of each Timewise skill being modelled in a specific situation. These situations typified some of the pressures faced by people in custody. CDM clips were designed to provide facilitators with concrete, structured, and visual chunks of engaging and informative media to enhance discussions. CDM clips were intended to help participants develop a mental model of a skill before discussing its personal relevance and then making efforts to apply it to their own life (as per the “go” phase of the model of change). The use of CDM in this way was consistent with efforts to adapt CBT to make abstract concepts and thinking more visible to participants.

The YouTube clip below provides a good introduction to Timewise and demonstration of the sorts of animations used.

The authors note that the original animations were poorly received by some participants but when modified on the basis of service user feedback including service user voice overs were rated much more positively. A formal trial of the impact of the new approach is planned.


Visual media have been used to support learning in accredited offending behaviour programmes for many years. The onset of new digital production techniques allows abstract concepts and skills to be made visible via audio-visual presentations that encourage learning, reflection, skills generalisation, and future engagement.

The authors highlight four main practice implications:

  1. CDM is an evidence-informed adjunct to conventional OBPs and provides a basis for innovative toolkit approaches (such as the Timewise channel).
  2. Agile service design (incorporating data analytics) can help developers to optimise highly responsive interventions to promote desistance.
  3. CDM can put user stories at the heart of interventions.
  4. Digital innovations should complement, not transform, the promotion of desistance.

I shall be very interested to follow the development of this approach and the research on its impact as it emerges.


All innovation posts are kindly sponsored by Socrates 360 which provides a complete solution for staff, prisoners, probationers, etc. combining engaging content, simple set-up and an easy tracking system. Socrates 360 has no influence over editorial content.

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