Unilink Email a prisoner

The power of communication behind bars

The Email a Prisoner (EMAP) service has made a huge difference to our prisoners and in their maintaining family ties. Prisoners that don’t receive mail easily, for example with busy families or those with overseas families are now able to communicate much more freely, they are noticing a huge difference, and are very grateful to the service.  (HMP Drake Hall)

According to the recent statistics, Britons on average make 132 million mobile phone calls a day. On top of this, over 1 billion text messages are sent every week. 49.7% of the population of the world is connected to the internet, in Europe 636, 971, 824 people use the internet. As a result, 281.1 billion emails will be sent and received a day by end of 2018 worldwide.

We all agree that using technology to communicate is important and keeps us connected with our friends, family, and customers. This, however, does not apply to prisons, where communication is often limited to one phone per wing and “snail mail”.

There is scientific evidence that maintaining family ties within prison reduces the likelihood of prisoners reoffending after release and increases their chances of rehabilitation. Unfortunately close to half of prisoners lose contact with their family while in prison. This creates enormous costs for society: in the UK 46% of adults are reconvicted within one year of release; each prisoner who reoffends adds to a total cost of reoffending of £10B per annum, UK National Audit Office.

Founded by a former prisoner, Derek Jones, Email a Prisoner (EMAP) enables communication to be maintained between those incarcerated and the outside world. It has become a vital tool in aiding the rehabilitation processes and in maintaining family ties through regular contact. Over 300 000 friends and families are using Email a Prisoner today.

Along with helping to maintain family ties, EMAP is widely used by organisations connected and concerned in an inmate’s welfare. This is further demonstrated by Legal Professionals, the National Health Service (NHS) and the National Probation Service (NPS) which uses this service in the UK. We are looking to expand into other countries following on from the success in the Netherlands and Australia.

Unilink has been working in the custodial environment for over a decade. We know that prisons should be not only places for restriction but mainly for rehabilitation.

What do users say?

The service has been a real lifeline for us. I can quickly and easily keep my partner up to date with home life and he really looks forward to his daily message. (Anonymous)

Writing a quick email before bed each night really helps me to feel closer to my partner at such a lonely time. (Anonymous)

It’s great to be able to send messages throughout the day from my phone, it helps keep my girlfriend in touch with what’s going on in the outside world. Thanks EMAP! (Anonymous)

Another great idea, it is a fantastic and lovely way for my children to keep in contact with their father. It saves all the unnecessary anticipation waiting for the postman with your next letter. (KH, Manchester)

This is why we have developed a whole package of Through the Gate services: Email a Prisoner (EMAP), secure payment services (SPayS), neatPhone and video visits are providing vital contact with the outside world for the inmates. The basic EMAP service has been used in all UK prisons for the last nine years, delivering more than a million messages every year.

The main benefits derived by the prison are increased security; reduced contraband; reduced paper handling and manual delivery; automatic handling and scanning of electronic correspondence and all messages are scanned for suspicious words and phrases.

From the senders’ point of view, the benefits are: fast two-way communication for less than the cost of a stamp; better communication for everyone: friends and family, mentors, probation, solicitors, police etc. And probably most important of all – improved chances of rehabilitation.

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UNILINK. Helping Prisons Work. For Prisoners. For Staff. For Society.
Unilink is the leader in prisoner self-service, communications and offender management software. An independent research from University of York shows that the software contributes towards rehabilitation and more efficient running of prisons. 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. One prisoner described the product as like “going from the 1860s Pony Express to today’s smartphone all in one giant leap.”


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