The power of communication behind bars

Written by Francis Toye, Founder and CEO of Unilink

Can anyone imagine going by their everyday life without their smart phone, internet connection, without checking their emails and firing out text messages, using all possible communication channels? Hard to even think about that, isn’t it?

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 internet, in Europe 636, 971, 824 people use internet. As a result 140 emails will be sent and received a day by 2018 worldwide.

We all agree using technology to communicate is important and keeps us connected with our friends, family, customers, suppliers and enabled new connections. We can meet people face to face or just txt!  SO imagine prisons: it is illegal to take a mobile communications device such as a phone into a prison, yes that applies to everyone, even staff!   So how does Father’s Day work?  For the friends and family of prisoners, technology is often the only way to stay in touch with their loved ones, which more often than not equals staying away from reoffending, and staying sane.

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: 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, National Audit Office.

Unilink has been working in custodial environment for over a decade. We know that prisons should be, not only places for restriction, but mainly for rehabilitation. This is why we have developed a whole package of Through the Gate services: email-a-prisoner (emap); secure payment services (SPayS) and video visits, are providing vital contact with the outside world for the inmates.  The basic emap service has been used in 98% of all UK prisons for the last 9 years, delivering more than a million messages every year.

A relative of one of our users sent us this:  “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, Greater Manchester)

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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