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October 22, 2021


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Access management

How can security technology support 21st-century prison systems?

Tom Smith, Major Accounts Sales Manager at Traka UK, highlights how a different outlook on prison services is a chance to ‘re-write the existing rulebook’, looking at every angle of in-mate care. This includes better use of technology in a secure way, to support risk reduction and improve staff contact with inmates.

Image courtesy of HMP Dovegate/Serco

New flagship ‘super prisons’ with a primary focus on rehabilitation are beginning to emerge. These buildings feature cross-shaped buildings with no barred cell windows, landscaped courtyards and hubs for education, vocational training and social facilities.

The new style is far removed from the k-block style favoured since Victorian times. Instead, these new facilities reflect a period of significant reform in the prison service, highlighted initially by the Prison Reform Bill as an opportunity to “truly interrogate the fundamental principles which underpin approaches toward rehabilitation.”

Drawing together several different themes and perspectives, reforms intended to provide recommendations about how best to address the challenges being faced in our prisons, including, but not restricted to, lack of resources and manual processes, budget restrictions, growing and ageing populations, medical substance abuse, understaffing and ageing buildings.

Aligned within this proposal is the ongoing “Rehabilitation by Design” study, which aims to offer “practical recommendations relating to the current challenges facing the prison system”, and, in doing so, “to reduce anger, violence, anxiety and depression by promoting better mental health and wellbeing.”

Use of secure technology

One significant point of discussion highlighted in this study is the better use of technology in prisons to encourage “responsibilisation through normalisation.”

The hope is that by empowering inmates with more responsibility in terms of time, resource and motivation, with some responsibility for everyday activities including for example essential medication management, it would reduce frustration within the system and consequential assaults on staff.

This was presented at HMP Berwyn, the first publicly-run super-prison, where every aspect of its design and function and the values it upholds, centres around the principles of rehabilitation. Key to its success are processes being easy to operate by authorised personnel, without compromising on security.

Case Example

HMP Berwyn has been constructed with the use of technology at the forefront.

Traka key cabinets operate the main key management system for the prison rooms.  This has recently been extended to the NHS-run pharmacy department, where a key cabinet – initially to manage 90 keys – has room for medical and sharp ‘restricted tools,’ that must be carefully managed within the prison environment.

Another example is HMP Dovegate, which is run by Serco, as a successful representation of the Transforming Prison Estates programme. The site was selected as a trial centre for a new Medication Distribution Locker (MDL), as it was demonstrative of a Category B prisoner population, where the population was stable and the infrastructure was available and appropriate i.e. IT connection, accessibility, space and security.

The prisoners in Dovegate can now access their medications without having to see a doctor or nurse. Biometrics are used to allow the men to collect ‘in-possession medications’, removing the need for them to queue at hatches.

The use of lockers was said to be less disruptive, faster and allowed flexibility around the prison regime.

Image by HMP Dovegate /Serco

Technology and the future prison system

Installations such as the medical distribution lockers have shown to support inmates as they look to manage and control their own time, resource and motivation in their own journey towards rehabilitation.

The result, in the words of the Prison Reform Trust, is where prisons in the 21st century can confidently be seen as a “fair measure of the state of our society,” and where they are “just, humane and effective.” Also supporting the Government’s aim to create a “modern, efficient prison estate that is fit for the future.”

Access Traka’s whitepaper on, ‘How technology can support the 21st-century prison systems,” here. 

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