Government to build £1m digital tool to help crack down on prison gangs

Written by Sam Trendall on 16 November 2018 in News
News

‘Digital categorisation service’ that will identify high-threat prisoners is a ministerial priority

Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/PA

The government is investing £1m to build a digital tool that can help prisons crack down on criminal activity by identifying inmates “who pose the greatest threat”.

The Ministry of Justice and HM Prison and Probation Service have jointly issued a contract notice for the development of a “digital categorisation service”. 

The goal of the tool – which is a ministerial priority, according to the notice – is to “better assist HMPPS staff in identifying offenders who pose the greatest threat whilst in custody, and allow police [and] prison staff to better target their activity to prevent, disrupt and disable criminal networks within prisons”. 

The service will analyse information held in an array of law-enforcement databases to calculate an overall risk rating for each prisoner.

In determining the “most appropriate conditions” for people held in custody, HMPPS currently uses a paper process to categorise offenders based on their risk level.


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“HMPPS have developed a prototype digital risk profile to support prison staff in better identifying prisoners who pose the greatest threat in custody, and now require a team to develop an efficient digital service,” the notice said.

A pilot was conducted earlier this year, and the government now wishes to retain a supplier to develop the service to enter private beta phase sometime in January, followed by public beta two months later.

The aim is to roll out the finished service in prisons across the country over the course of 2019. The development of the digital tool forms part of a range of measures to combat prison crime that are being led by justice secretary David Gauke.

“The justice secretary has introduced an improvement package to tackle crime within prisons, with part of this focusing on improving the categorisation of offenders,” the notice said. “The first focus is to support staff to better identify prisoners who pose the greatest threat in custody. HMPPS have developed a prototype risk profile that assists staff assigning offender categories by evaluating a larger breadth of risk factors. We are now ready to tackle the process element, which is currently paper-based, time consuming and inefficient, and with the help of a supplier team, develop a digital service that drives efficiency and reduces crime within prisons.”

The government is seeking to appoint a supplier to a six-month contract worth up to £1m. The chosen bidder will be permanently based at MoJ headquarters in central London.

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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