Ministry of Justice: Prison video calls team
When we think about delivering inclusive services to citizens, we rarely think about the 82,000+ people in our prisons and their families.
For people to not reoffend, they need three things: somewhere to work, somewhere to live, and someone to love.
Although some prisons have in-cell phones, the majority use a shared phone on a landing in a wing that prisoners have limited access to. These become hotspots for intimidation, crime and violence, and have costs attached for using them. It can be incredibly hard for prisoners to stay connected to their families and friends - who provide a lifeline for many.
In terms of physical visits, many prisons are hundreds of miles away from families homes, and the cost and travel are often prohibitive; especially those with a disability, those from a lower socio-economic household, those with caring responsibilities, or the elderly.
During COVID19, prisons went into full lockdown with all visits suspended. Our team ramped up our pilot (in the user research stage) and delivered a national rollout to over 100 prisons in only a few months. This should have taken considerably longer, especially as we can't give access to standard video calls software. We’ve also trained staff and deployed kit fully remotely.
Over 29,000 calls have taken place. They’ve made a significant positive difference – one parent in prison saw their baby for the first time, another saw their toddler take their first steps and a young person in prison was able to use the video calls system to sign to his deaf parents. Of over 700 prisoners surveyed, 97% said video calls with their loved one had a positive impact on their mental health.