Unilink is empowering prisoners and helping rehabilitation through employment
The annual cost of reoffending paid by British society is estimated at around £15B. Ex-offenders with no skills, education or work experience and a criminal record find it difficult to re-integrate into free society. Providing them with opportunities to learn and gain qualifications while serving their sentences increases their self-esteem and makes it more likely for them to get a job on release.
Technology company Unilink has signed a contract with the commercial arm of Prison Industries part of the UK Ministry of Justice to open the first kiosk assembly workshop in a British prison. Today prisoners are building interactive kiosks for other prisoners to use.
“Engaging offenders in employment while they are serving their sentences is actually part of the rehabilitation process”, says Lance Harris, Commercial Business Manager at ONE3ONE Solutions, Directorate of Rehabilitation and Assurance at Her Majesty Prison and Probation Service (Ministry of Justice). “Working equips them with skills that will be very beneficial for them on release and will help them secure a job and integrate back into society. Manufacturing the consoles is very intricate work. The prisoners enjoy doing it and they find it rewarding”, he further added. In fact, one of the offenders in HM Prison Littlehey said: “Give us more. We are now hooked on to these”.
“They feel like they are part of a real factory, they gain not only knowledge of manufacturing but also the very useful skill of working in a team, to be prompt, disciplined and responsible”, adds Lance. “The benefit for the prisoners will go a step further as the work will attract certification from an accredited body which will test their knowledge and provide an equivalent qualification. We want to upskill them, we want to give them a better chance to stay away from crime – this will reduce reoffending and the number of victims”.
“Kiosk assembly work provided by Unilink gives prisoners confidence, skills and better chances for employment after release,” says Lorna Judd, Industries Manager, Her Majesty Prison Service.
“Prisoners can be among an employer’s most dedicated and loyal employees. Getting more ex-offenders into work is good for them, reduces reoffending and, ultimately, protects the public” declares Rory Stewart, Minister of State for the Ministry of Justice.
With the demand growing, Unilink will be able to provide employment to more prisoners and possibly to extend to another workshop in a female prison. The offenders work around six hours a day and are getting paid a weekly wage in line with the prison policy. The biggest reward, however, is the skills they are gaining and the feeling of meaningfulness that their time behind bars is not wasted.
Unilink operates another small kiosk assembly workshop in Adelaide, Australia. The feedback from both the inmates and staff there is very positive and the demand for new orders is constantly growing.
Unilink’s kiosks are installed on prison wings in 46 prisons worldwide and are in daily use by over 30,000 inmates. They replace outdated paper systems. Prisoners log on to the kiosk using dual-factor authentication and can submit requests to staff and receive responses, check their account balances, make their meal choices, shop, book their visits, request medical appointments, drug treatments, education and apply for jobs in the prison. This frees prison officers’ time from the administration, enabling them to focus on what is important and gives more responsibility to the prisoners to organise their own lives.
The kiosks themselves can be wall or floor mounted and have been specifically designed for high-security environments. The touch screens are resistant to attacks, flames, water; and the metal cases have no ligature points. In one establishment, a kiosk was attacked with a fire extinguisher and the glass was chipped but not broken.
Unilink’s biometric self-service and offender management system is an award-winning product that works safely, securely and efficiently. In 2016, Unilink won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation and in 2015 was awarded “Best Citizen App” and UK Digital Leader overall winner. For more details go to www.unilink.com or email email@example.com