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Unilink and a digital future in prisons and probation
Unilink is improving access to digital services for people in prison and on probation.

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Digital Transformation

This is the fourth in my series of posts profiling well-known British companies with proven digital expertise in the criminal justice sector. As well as providing a picture of the company and its products, I’ll be asking why so many British tech companies in the sector are more successful at selling their wares in other countries, despite starting their journey on these shores.

This week’s post looks at the work of Unilink, which, as many readers will know, delivers criminal justice solutions for prisons and probation. Its Prisoner Self-Service system  enables people in prison to take responsibility for their own administrative tasks, provides secure internet access, education, and multimedia content. This is the system which runs the self-serve kiosks in our prisons and which is increasingly available to people via an app on tablets and laptops with MoJ rolling out the software on in-cell devices to over 11,000 people in prison with more in the pipeline.

All new build prisons have in-cell technology, using Unilink’s offender management and self- service software. One particular useful feature is that emailaprisoner services (messages, replies & video sessions) that are now available on the eMates app, are sent to the personal devices, which allow a near instant response keeping people in prison in touch with their friends and family.


Like most of the British companies featured in this blog series, Unilink how provides its products and services to a wide range of jurisdictions including Australia, the USA, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway. In this post, I focus on some of the innovations that Unilink is developing.

Alert Intervene Monitor (AIM)

AIM is an analytical tool that provides operational prison staff an alternative lens to consider prisoner wellbeing and safety across their prison population. This innovative web application, based on a proof of concept used in Serco Prisons, is aligned to the evidence base for prison suicide and self-injurious behaviours and has evolved into a multiagency collaboration with other prison operators (G4S & Sodexo).
AIM analyses data collected from prisoner’s self-service interactions: dynamic factors such as visits, phone use, shop, work, education or other purposeful activities, data collected from various prisoner questionnaires and proven static factors identified from empirical research (i.e. age or previous self-harm). Any deviation in an individual’s daily routine is identified and represented on a scale from low to high through intuitive traffic light indicators with red signalling a need for intervention. So, for instance, if a person in prison stops booking visits or gym sessions, does not bother to choose a meal but just receives the default option, the system will flag up possible concerns. 
The data is presented in configurable dashboards and you can see an example in the header image of this blog (the prisoner is, of course, fictional in this example).

Probation app

MyProbation service is a mobile application and microsite that more closely connects people who are being released from custody or those under community supervision with their probation officers. It has been designed to improve communication and encourage more open engagement and support during what is often a fairly challenging period of readjustment for people being released or sentenced in the community.

The application seeks to support probation offers and probationers by opening up communication, facilitating requests for additional support or referrals to partners such as employment or substance misuse providers. Importantly, the MyProbation service supports two-way and structured messaging and allows officers to send appointments and reminders to service users. The app promotes better engagement and officers can message probationers in a pro social way and respond to their requests or view documents or proof of absences which really simplify the administrative burden on probation teams and facilitates improved compliance with sentences.

Importantly, people on probation are also able to use the app to contact their probation officer directly (rather than spend hours trying to get through on the phone) and can even select their own appointment time.


Unilink is currently working on integrating a new IP telephony (think WhatsApp) solution to its eMates app to make keeping in touch with family much cheaper for people inside.

Interestingly, other countries where Unilink is working are looking to totally replace the outdated software systems within their prison and probation services while the UK is looking merely to adapt and update its notoriously clunky provision.

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Unilink, Europe’s provider of Offender/Probation Management Software


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