Exclude me?!

January 28, 2009

I take it as a given that the world and his dog is online, using email, has a mobile phone and knows how to use it.  Well OK, my mum continues to struggle with predictive text and asked me recently ‘darling, what’s this about birds telling people what they’re doing’ – ‘do you mean Twitter, mum’ – but she’s there, she has a presence in this technologically driven world.


The proliferation of these technologies has created such a profound socio-technical change in the way we live our lives (I don’t remember a time without Google or Facebook) – 60% of current and 90% of new jobs require ICT skills and our social and family networks are increasingly maintained online.


The impact of these changes seems to be ubiquitous – a recent research report highlighted the increasing divide that the changes in the way young people communicate are creating between children and their parents – and they see each other everyday.  Imagine then, if you have been imprisoned, without access to any of these communication devices or facilities, unaware of the rapid changes that are occurring in the way we work, learn or socialise.


It’s clear that embedding technology – not necessarily just computers and the internet – is vital in prisons.  In Norway, prisoners have computers in their cells with internet access.  This might be shocking for some, but as the Norwegian prison officer explained to Erwin James, “… they must be able to access the internet, to help in their education and also so that they know they are still connected to the world.” 


Undeniably, there are some great examples of progress taking place in some UK prisons but we seem to be a fair distance away from the Norway ideal.  Movement is however in the right direction and the PLN will be exploring this further in its forthcoming reports.




Who are you conning?

January 22, 2009

Posted for Tez

The Sun’s headline called it ‘Con Air’. Costing £2 million, a new national prison radio station has been approved by the Ministry of Justice. NTL has won a 3 year exclusive deal to broadcast across all prison authorities in the U.K. The show will go out for 12 hours a day and will include educational programmes and messages.

I read that Shadow justice minister Edward Garnier would prefer prisoners to be working rather than lying on their beds listening to messages all day. The ironic thing is, we prisoners would like to be out working or doing something ‘purposeful’! But the reality is that keeping us locked up for longer saves money – a reported £17m – so if it’s likely to happen then shouldn’t the time be used for something other than listening to music stations.

Prison radio has existed for years thanks to organisations like the Prison Radio Association, helping prisoners to deal with a whole range of issues. This new national station will be broadcasting “specifically targeted audio content addressing a range of issues including induction, resettlement, health and exercise, drug awareness, family relationships, employment and finance – all factors identified as key to reducing re-offending”. The prison radio will provide a unique and innovative way to engage prisoners in education, especially those reluctant or disenfranchised from other more traditional forms of education. And it provides a chance for the prisoners’ voice to be heard, a voice that is often asked for but rarely sought after.

Some of the funding is coming out of money saved from prisoners being behind their doors for longer. And if it can go towards helping prisoners learn new skills that will help them in the uphill struggle of gaining future employment and in reducing re-offending, then why not??!