Smart Prisons and Artificial Intelligence Systems Expand in Finland

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Pia Puolakka

In 2021, the Prison and Probation Service of Finland (PPS) introduced the country’s first Smart Prison, a women’s facility housing 100 inmates. 

The Hämeenlinna prison provided personal cell devices that allowed prison inmates to access digital services by communicating and managing daily tasks inside the prison, as well as communicating with the outside world via video calls and whitelisted internet services. 

In December 2022, the Smart Prison project was extended to Pyhäselkä Prison, a facility for male inmates in North-Eastern Finland, near the border with Russia. This prison is a closed unit serving nearly 70 inmates.  

The roll-out in Pyhäselkä began in one ward, and the allocation of personal cell devices extended to the rest of the prison during the first trimester of 2023.  

The prison’s policlinic is also using the system for e-consultations with inmates. The Smart Prison concept is similar to that of Hämeenlinna Prison. It includes active administrative users who take care of the daily digital guidance for inmates and staff.  

Collaboration with external partners has taken a completely new step thanks to the cell devices. Inmates can now make video calls directly from their cells to various officials, their lawyers and NGOs providing rehabilitation services. The email system provided to inmates as part of our Smart Prison project has been well received by staff. Paper mail is expected to decrease as the email system replaces the traditional way of keeping in touch with incarcerated individuals.  

Various security issues may concern staff regarding the inmates’ email system, but on the other hand, inmates are now able to manage their daily routines more independently, involving outside agencies and staying in touch with teachers and social workers, for instance.  

The Smart Prison project has attracted a great deal of international attention. The Prison and Probation Service of Finland received many consultations from other countries regarding the key features and requirements of the smart system called Doris.  

Doris was chosen by women inmates and means “Digitally Organised Rapid Information System”. At the same time, it is also a woman’s name in many countries, a reminder that the system was first used by Finnish female prisoners. In the future, Doris will be extended to all fifteen closed prison units in Finland. The pace of implementation will be about two new prisons per year. 

Personal cell devices available for inmates in the Finnish Smart Prisons.

There’s also continued interest in the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems within the Prison and Probation Service of Finland.  

This year the Council of Europe will finalise the recommendations on the use of AI in prison and probation settings, and Finland has been actively involved in the drafting process. A senior specialist from PPS, Pia Puolakka, has been part of the working group that drafted the recommendations and, based on these, new AI pilot projects are to be tested in Finnish prisons this year.  

A new offender management system (OMS) called Roti was introduced in May 2022. RISE AI is designed to be a new feature of our OMS. It’s based on using Artificial Intelligence to assess and analyse offenders’ risks and needs and to recommend services that would support reducing recidivism.  

RISE AI is a recommender system that simulates the offender assessment, planning and service counselling process carried out by human experts. It’s supposed to be a new tool for senior coordinators responsible for the sentence planning process, not an automated decision-making tool, which would go against the ethical use of AI in corrections.  

The benefits will entail a more efficient and effective sentence planning process and a better match between offenders’ needs and the services and programmes they’re offered during their sentence. RISE AI is also expected to help with short-term offenders passing through the prison system. The first version of RISE AI will be rolled out in Autumn 2023, after staff have been trained to use the new digital tool. 

In addition, the Prison and Probation Service of Finland has recently participated in the pilot of Aurora AI, a national Artificial Intelligence programme which is a recommender system helping citizens to find necessary and relevant public services on a common platform of public service providers.  

The idea is to digitalise and partially automate the service counselling process and increase the compatibility between services and citizens’ multiple needs. The Ministry of Finance and the Digital and Population Data Services Agency are running the programme.  

Our agency is currently piloting the user interface of Aurora AI for offenders in two prisons and one probation office. The primary goal is to enable offenders to find the services that will help them reintegrate back into society while serving their sentence and as a continuum from prison to civilian life. Co-development with service users is essential for human-centred and ethical AI systems. 

Both AI systems will help support the overall offender management process, including the critical phase of release from prison. We will collect and analyse the lessons learned from the development project of RISE AI and Aurora AI systems to know how to move forward in the future regarding the best interests of both offenders and our staff. 

Pia Puolakka has been working for the Finnish Prison and Probation Service since 2012. Her current position as a Senior Specialist and Team Leader with the Safety, Security and Individual Coaching Team includes the development of digital services for rehabilitation, leading the implementation of the Smart Prison system and the development of Artificial Intelligence applications. She is a member of the EuroPris ICT Expert Group and part of the Council of Europe’s working group developing recommendations for the use of AI in corrections. By education, she is a forensic psychologist. 

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