Prisons are under scrutiny like never before. HM Inspectorate of Prisons have made it clear that robust independent scrutiny is vital and the need for greater transparency is important to help prisons improve.
Inconsistent record keeping, inadequate complaints systems and varying standards of investigations and responses to complaints, have been highlighted. These concerning developments have largely been driven by a combination of overcrowding and under funding. Staff shortages, poor living conditions, and problematic response tactics have resulted in the overall deterioration of prison safety.
Statistical data published by the Ministry of Justice (July 2019) confirms a continuing rise in the rates of violence in prisons.
Violence is ‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened, or assaulted. This includes an explicit or implicit challenge to their safety, wellbeing or health. The resulting harm may be physical, emotional or psychological.’
The report highlights assaults are at a record high with 34,425 reported incidents in the 12 months to March 2019. The proportion of assaults on staff significantly increased from 4% to 15% on the previous year, and similarly prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in the 12 month period saw a 10% increase.
More recently, assaults within the youth secure estate have been an on-going concern and have featured heavily in a series of inspection and investigation reports. Concerns around levels of bullying, a rise in self-harm incidences and the balance of prisoner dignity within the safety and security of the prison environment.
Overseeing prison operations to ensure safe, secure and humane treatment of prisoners is a complex and difficult task. It is important systems are in place to ensure that decisions are taken rigorously and transparently, and without bias.
Prison Technology: Keeping staff and prisoners safe
Traditionally Prison Services have relied heavily on the recording abilities of individual officers and their physical proximity to events as they happen. Today digital technologies make it possible for officers to maximise their time, releasing them to be more involved in making prisons safer and aiding prison rehabilitation.
Tephra’s Smart Hatch solution is an electronically controlled obscure glass for a prison observation hatch. It has the ability to switch electronically between obscure and clear when required.
It is the first and only auditable obscured controlled panel that can be retrofitted to prison observation hatches. Smart Hatch prevents unauthorised viewing by switching the viewing window from obscure to clear during times when staff are preforming authorised observations.
The introduction of Smart Hatch enables a prison service to be more transparent, accountable and credible in its internal operations, by providing an audit trail to demonstrate integrity of any disclosed data.
This is essential when investigating incidents, but also to ensure that Prison Services evolve in ways that genuinely provide protection for both staff and prisoners.
The Lava Group’s Smart Hatch system is already raising the standards of care by improving the process around cell observation recordings. Find out more on Smart Hatch