British government considering whether to give inmates iPads to further their education

software glitch releases prisoners early prison cell
John McAllister/123rf
One can argue that, given the advances made in the mobile technology sector, prison systems have yet to “keep up with the times.” Sir Martin Narey, an adviser to the Ministry of Justice in Britain, hopes to change this with his iPad-centered plan, reports The Telegraph.

Sir Narey’s plan calls for prisoners to receive iPads not only in an effort to keep them connected with family members, but also to further their education while cooped up in their prison cells. The plan, said Narey, will help make a prisoner’s time more constructive while modernizing the prison system in general.

“[Prisoners] should be meeting a tutor once a week, but doing work on literacy and numeracy on their own,” said the adviser. “We could look at giving prisoners iPads to work on in their cells.”

Apart from actually utilizing technology that is currently available in a beneficial manner, the plan also seems to have the goal of acting as a deterrent against recidivism. Defined as a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, recidivism is not something the criminal justice system has been good at reducing. A report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the U.S. in 2014, studying the period between 2005 and 2010, showed that, within five years of release, 82 percent of property offenders were arrested for a new crime. The recidivism rate was 77 percent for drug offenders, 71 percent for violent offenders, and 74 percent for public order offenders during the same time period.

The numbers likely look different for the U.K., but recidivism is nonetheless a universal concept rather than one confined to certain regions of the world. An argument can be made that the high rates of recidivism are due to prisoners being ill-equipped for the real world once they’re released from jail. And this is where Narey’s plan comes in, a plan that seeks to lower recidivism rates by equipping prisoners with a proper education.

With education, prisoners can then turn to the job market, where they will be at an advantage when compared to prisoners who didn’t receive such skills while in jail. According to Dame Sally Coates, who is currently conducting a review of education in prisons for Justice Minister Michael Gove, education is the key to lowering recidivism.

“If you haven’t got the skills to get a job, then you’re much more likely to re-offend,” said Coates.

Narey’s plan is currently being considered by Gove, with no timetable given as to when a decision will be reached.

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