The department’s technology priority since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak has been focused on enabling communication between prisoners and their families and friends.
Since the beginning of March, this has resulted in the deployment of over 1000 secure mobile phones to complement existing in-cell telephones and wing phones.
We have deployed nearly 250 tablets for compassionate calls across all public prisons in England and Wales and most significantly we have deployed video calls across 105 sites to enable an interim alternative whilst face-to-face meetings were suspended. There are still 7 sites which are yet to have fully operational video visits, these are being worked on by our teams as a priority. Over 27,000 video calls have been made so far.
As announced in June, £20m was secured to increase technology infrastructure across the estate. This work is enabling additional video-conferencing facilities and the extension of in-cell technology across sites with existing network infrastructure.
This complements existing work to install technology across the entire youth estate, which will support education and rehabilitation by providing secure access to appropriate content on laptops via our Content Hub. The Content Hub provides access to education materials such as maths exercises, books supporting people learning to read, and specific vocational learning materials (including customer service skills, food safety awareness, and Khan Academy materials to support people learning to be electricians).
During the COVID-19 crisis, additional education services have been added to the Content Hub, including mindfulness tools, in-cell exercises, and audio books to support the residents during longer periods in cells. National Prison Radio shows have also been used to keep residents calm and to reduce frustration.
The use of secure technology to enable the safe delivery of education in-cell is a key part of our strategy to improve rehabilitation, get more prisoners ready for jobs on release and reduce reoffending. We continue to consider the recommendations of the Farmer Review when prioritising future deployment of technology.