The UK Government is embarking on a £30 million prisons improvement package designed to tackle organised crime and bring buildings back up to a decent standard. The aim is to improve safety, security and decency across the prison estate; criminal lynchpins operating behind bars will be targeted through new digital technology; and, in-cell phones will be used to incentivise good behaviour and boost rehabilitation.
Criminal lynchpins who orchestrate gangs from behind bars will be identified, targeted and disrupted thanks to the use of new technology. As part of action to enhance safety, security and decency across the estate, a new digital tool will enable prisons to build a more detailed picture of the kind of risk an offender is likely to present – including the likelihood of involvement in organised crime.
Following a successful trial, the digital tool – which assesses information from various law enforcement databases to create a central ‘risk rating’ for each prisoner – will be rolled out across the country over the next year, thanks to a £1m injection. While the current system relies on offence type and sentence length to categorise prisoners, the new technology will help staff to assess the risks an offender is likely to pose – including violence, escape, or becoming involved in organised crime. This intelligence will allow police and prison staff to better target their activity to prevent, disrupt and disable criminal networks, including moving prisoners when necessary. This smarter approach to categorisation is already having an impact and has led to 12 of the most prolific criminals being moved to different prisons, disrupting their control over criminal networks.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “We must make it clear to these gangs that criminality stops at the prison gate….We have already identified some of the worst offenders coordinating drug supply from the inside and moved them to other prisons to cut them off from their market. This includes people using drones and visitors to smuggle drugs and mobile phones into prisons, and those seeking to corrupt prison staff and coerce other prisoners – through intimidation or fear – to get involved in criminal activity. Removing these individuals disrupts supply routes and, just like any organisation, this lack of leadership paralyses the gangs and stops them from getting business done.”
The £30m package includes an overall £7m investment in safety. This will fund a range of new security measures, including airport-security style scanners, improved searching techniques and phone-blocking technology.