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  1. Government Computing
June 24, 2021

A Big Touch of Technology in the UK Correctional System

Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has a vital role in overseeing correctional services in the UK.

By Leonardo Bulgarelli Freitas

Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has a vital role in overseeing correctional services in the UK. The organisation sits under the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) responsibility, but usually has its own ICT objectives and challenges to tackle. On 15th June 2021, HMPPS published its Digital, Data and Technology Strategy for 2021-2022, including a long term vision on what it expects to be implementing up to 2024.

In this article we will highlight the most important developments on HMPPS’s pipeline and some of the implications of these projects to the development of the correctional system in the UK.

Prison Technology Transformation Programme (PTTP)

During 2021-2022, efforts will be made so the PTTP programme is rolled out at UK prisons and the HMPPS’s headquarters.  The programme has been widely discussed by Parliament during 2020 and has the aim to upgrade end-user technology for correctional and back-office staff in the division, focusing on connectivity, interoperability, and cost-effectiveness. Policy wise, PTTP is aligned with HMPPS’s Business Strategy released in November 2019, showing that the organisation is making a move towards accomplishing its long term transformation plans.

One of the priorities of PTTP is to replace legacy laptops, desktops and mobile devices for all staff working for the organisation. On the software side, the programme aims to upgrade operating systems to Windows 10 and Citrix for easier data sharing amongst prison employees in the UK.

Furthermore, plans to roll out Microsoft 365 for email and Office applications for HMPPS are also in place. The roll-out of Microsoft 365 will facilitate online integration between prisons, probation services and other areas of the MoJ. According to them, a budget of £317m has been allocated to the project, with the first promised phase of the PTTP aiming to deliver the device replacement for 2,000 of HMPPS HQ staff by the end of June 2021.

With the transformation programme, MoJ expects to achieve certain outcomes on prison connectivity and interoperability within the organisation. These include risk mitigation for technology outages in prisons and at their HQ, increased staff productivity through better performing applications, cost reduction and the centralisation of digital services.

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Technology-Shaped Prison and Probation Services

Aside from key hardware and license renewals, HMPPS is also aiming to use technology to optimise its current approach to prison and offender management. In 2021/2022, the organisation is expected to redesign their Offender Management System looking at technology that may help them enhance prisoner records, sentence calculation, risk assessment and case preparation for a sentence. Other current programs, such as HMPPS’s Digital Prisoner Escort Service, will also be expanded to cater for a higher number of offenders in the UK justice system.

According to HMPPS, efforts on upgrading offender data have the end goal of achieving better end-to-end sentence management covering prison, probation, parole, and community services in the region. With more streamlined data sharing and collection, HMPPS aims to cut down on time spent filling and processing paperwork by their current staff, reduce the room for error when completing necessary forms, and to provide more effective sentencing to offenders.

Some of the time-saving outcomes expected with the mentioned ICT upgrades are detailed by a whitepaper named Evaluation of Digital Technology in Prisons, released by the MoJ in 2020. Before the national roll-out, self-service kiosks and digital application systems have been implemented in selected prisons across the UK, and data was collected showing a significant reduction in time spent by staff and offenders when processing daily occurrences and applications.

Digital tools to support offender rehabilitation

Another aspect of HMPPS’s digital transformation for 2021/2022 relies on offering enhanced digital tools to offenders. HMPPS will aim to procure new prison video calling software so offenders can have more contact with their relatives . There is also intent to procure a new video conferencing system for probation so offenders can be more easily reached by correctional staff once they are reintroduced back to society. In addition, HMPPS will be rolling out a pilot with nine prisons in the UK to increase offender access to laptops and tablets in these institutions.

HMPPS’s digitally centred approach for offender rehabilitation expects to produce positive outcomes on recidivism and mental health in prison facilities. By bringing inmates closer to their relatives, recurrent mental health issues in the prison system such as depression and chronic anxiety could be eased, making the time spent behind bars more bearable and increasing chances of full rehabilitation.

Can the whole HMPPS transformation happen by 2022?

A prison and probation digital revamp in the UK has been long-awaited, and the thorough plan put together by HMPPS is a positive head start. However, the budget of circa £317m allocated for the project up to 2024/2025 will represent a substantial portion of the organisation’s expenditure.

The high cost of this digital transformation could mean that some of the desired changes will have to be prioritised, and even if pilots are rolled out by 2022, full national rollouts of some systems may still take years to happen. This is, however, exciting news for suppliers willing to showcase their ICT capabilities to HMPPS and looking to establish a long-term relationship with the organisation.

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