Tag Archives: prisoners internet access

Prisoners should have internet access

Prisoners need to learn computer skills, but the internet is strictly banned

Prisoners should have access to computers and the internet to help with

reintegration into society and reduce reoffending once they are released,

according to research.

Secure, controlled use of the web can also transform education, family contact

and resettlement in jails, the joint Prison Reform Trust and Prisoners Education

Trust report said.

Through the Gateway: How Computers Can Transform Rehabilitation examines the

use of information and communication technology (ICT) in prisons and its

potential as a tool for rehabilitation.

It is based on a survey of jails sent to all prison governors and directors in

England and Wales supported by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS)

focus group.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of the prison governors and managers who responded

to the survey agreed that prisoners should have secure and controlled access to

the internet, while 94% agreed ICT skills were necessary for everyday living.

Three quarters (67%) said that prisoners should be able to set up bank accounts

while in prison using ICT.

The report said greater and more effective use of ICT in prisons would improve

opportunities for education, training, employment, resettlement and strengthen

family ties – all factors which have been shown to reduce reoffending on

release.

Nearly half (47%) of adults are reconvicted within one year of release. For

those serving sentences of less than 12 months and young people aged 18-20 this

increases to 58%. In 2011-12, just 27% of prisoners entered employment on

release from prison.

The main barriers for prisons using ICT to improve rehabilitation were concerns

about security, financial constraints, the lack of a co-ordinated strategy,

licensing and insufficient central resources, researchers found.

In the foreword to the report, Nick Hardwick, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons,

wrote: “We can’t go on with prisons in a pre-internet dark age: inefficient,

wasteful and leaving prisoners woefully unprepared for the real world they will

face on release.

“I have not met one prison professional who does not think drastic change is

needed.”

He added: “Of course, there are security issues that need to be managed but

the technology itself allows every key stroke to be monitored and access can be

risk-assessed.

“Perhaps there are some who will say computers and the internet are luxuries

prisoners should do without. There was probably some grumbling when they first

put telephones on the wings too and if we want prisons to rehabilitate those

they hold, we have to give them the tools to do so.”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Controlled use of ICT

is a sensible way to bring prisons and prisoners into the 21st century.

“Closing the digital divide between people in prison and the community is

vital for effective rehabilitation and resettlement.”

Rod Clark, chief executive, Prisoners Education Trust, said: “These days most

people could not function without computers or the internet and if we can’t

work, find a job or study without the use of ICT, how can we expect people in

prison to do so?

“Technology can provide us with many solutions to help rehabilitate people in

a safe, secure way and if we do not explore them, then we risk sending more

people back into society without the skills or the motivation to live a life

free from crime.”

Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he broadly supported the idea.

“I think there is a very valid case for internet access to be made available to prisoners – 48 US States allow some inmates internet access of one sort or another.

“Screened internet access, linked into the incentive earned privileges scheme and made available to those on enhanced regime, is certainly justified and one I would certainly support – but it must be earned by sustained good custodial behaviour, proven progress on offending risk reduction and compliance with the prison rules.”

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