A Digital Prison

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Goals: increase confidence, reduce reoffending

You can change your cookie settings at any time. Get ready for Brexit. Prisoners will be taught coding to prepare them for work as part of plans to help marginalised groups become skilled in tech. The programme is modelled on the Last Mile project in the San Quentin prison in California which has helped almost offenders with a zero per cent reoffending rate of participants.

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The national average reoffending rate in the US is 55 per cent. The Government is committed to stopping the cycle of reoffending and a valuable asset to prevent recidivism is employment. Equipping offenders with coding skills will help them into life-changing work and give them a path to a hugely rewarding career.

We have a world-leading digital economy and this new funding will help keep people out of prison so they can give back to their local communities as well as be a boost for our tech businesses. Code is an excellent example of what can be achieved through education and training in prison.

Public safety and justice

It not only helps offenders turn their lives around but also benefits society by reducing the chances of their reoffending, and I am delighted to see it receive this further funding. Code workshops are reducing re-offending at a measurable rate, because we keep in touch with our graduates. We are constantly seeing success after success. When I started teaching in prisons I thought that if I could change just one life, turn one person away from crime then I have achieved something truly marvellous. I look back on the years that I have been teaching coding in prisons and can see all the lives I have had a part in changing for the better.

Not just the ex-offenders but their families and, more importantly their children. It is an enormous sense of achievement and with this funding I look forward to changing even more lives. Programmes being funded include those targeted at helping women from disadvantaged backgrounds, people with autism and people living in lower socioeconomic areas.

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The aim is to help people get the skills to succeed in roles such as data analysts, programmers, software developers and digital marketeers. The funding will see new training courses, workshops and seminars led by tech experts alongside a mentoring scheme tailored to businesses. Research reveals only 19 percent of women make up the tech workforce and are underrepresented in the uptake of digital qualifications. While unemployed adults are five per cent more likely to lack the basic digital skills than the national average.

Local Digital Skills Partnerships Local DSPs bring together regional businesses, charities, local authorities and academics to increase the digital skills of individuals and organisations in their region. This takes the number of people with access to the programme to more than 10 million, boosting digital and technical skills, job opportunities and productivity across the regions. Speaking with UKAuthority he says that more basic problems have had to be overcome before the service can get on with the more ambitious changes.

But the concept is going into practice, using a system provided by Unilink that includes biometrics to Home Office standards and the ability to integrate with the internal back office and external systems.

He cites the process of prisoners ordering their meals in advance as an example of what the self-service can provide. It has often been a flashpoint when some change their minds and effectively take meals meant for others, but recording the order on a digital system, rather than in a mound of paper that nobody can check, can make it easier to manage and diffuse any tensions.

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They can also use it for actions such as ordering small items from prison shops and managing their own account information. Security is an important factor. Giving them access to a cloud system and external websites requires internet connectivity, but this has to be controlled to manage the risk around communicating with the outside world. Monaghan says there is a cyber operations service that adds a layer of monitoring allowing relevant services to plug into the system and provide shortcuts to the relevant web pages, without allowing the users to stray into other areas.

We still have to get ministerial approval to go to services outside our community. These goals are all well within reach if prisons were to undertake a major initiative to introduce technology in prisons to improve digital literacy and increase the education levels of inmates directly through online modules and internet-capable devices that could be used to provide inmates with a more concrete understanding of how the Internet can be used for real-world purposes.

Though digital literacy offers its own advantages, using technology and portable devices in prison to offer new educational programs would also greatly ease the transition back to normalcy for ex-convicts. Increasing educational opportunities would provide an important pathway for criminals who seek ways to live stable lives after being released from prison.

Researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice found in that roughly 37 percent of prisoners in state prisons had less than a high school diploma, so a moderate increase in skills could mean a great deal. But the question is just how much could education programs in prisons help inmates? Additionally, digital learning might benefit offenders who have struggled in the past with traditional in-person teaching methods due to behavioral issues. Critics of these initiatives have cause for concern, such as issues with maintaining security and the possible effectiveness of such a plan.

One major security concern involves whether or not inmates should be allowed open access to the Internet for certain obvious reasons, but there are ways to manage this risk. A prison could either allow Internet access only to certain websites or provide inmates with an archived offline version of the Internet for the purpose of allowing inmates to learn how to use technology and interact with some form of the Internet.

Digital Prisons

According a survey by the Department of Education, only 38 percent of correctional education programs already offer access to an archived version of the Internet, but this means that this is a viable solution that manages security risks and would be a good option for other correctional education programs. In regards to the issue of how effective these technology initiatives could be, there are two key questions that need to be answered: what societal barriers would exist for any plan to increase education levels and digital literacy in prisons, and how can society be convinced of the worthiness of the investment?

Learn how you can promote citizen well-being and enhance your public safety and justice services

The arguably more interesting and complex question to address is the potential effectiveness these digital literacy initiatives would have for prisoners once they are released. One of the biggest obstacles that prisoners face upon leaving prison is unemployment, largely due to a small box on most job applications that requires applicants to indicate whether or not he or she has a criminal record. This would also be a barrier to the effectiveness of any technology initiative in prisons, as the success of the program would be tied very closely to the ability of ex-convicts to become employed.

Any effort to implement online educational programs and increase digital literacy in prisons would have a legitimate question to answer: what can society do to best tap into these benefits? If society can find a way to ease the employment process for ex-convicts, it would further justify reasons to increase technology usage in prisons as we could end up with a better educated and more skilled population of ex-convicts that could actually utilize the real opportunities available to them.

For the benefits of educational and digital literacy initiatives in prisons to come into fruition, ex-convicts must be allowed the opportunity to display what they have learned so that they have a reasonable chance of being considered for a job before an employer is made aware of a criminal record.

A Digital Prison A Digital Prison
A Digital Prison A Digital Prison
A Digital Prison A Digital Prison
A Digital Prison A Digital Prison
A Digital Prison A Digital Prison
A Digital Prison A Digital Prison
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