Transforming UK prisons


The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is a major UK government department at the heart of the justice system. They are focused on protecting and advancing the principles of justice, which includes being responsible for prisons, courts, probation services and attendance centres.

Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is responsible for carrying out sentences given by the courts, in custody and the community and in rehabilitating people through education and employment. It is also responsible for ensuring that offenders in custody are held in the appropriate conditions to maintain the security of the estate.

The challenge

In 2017, as part of a Prison Reform Programme, the MoJ and HMPPS decided to review the process for categorising offenders in custody. They wanted to identify possible methods to automate the categorisation and allocation of prisoners’ decision-making process and to improve data sharing across the UK’s criminal justice system.

A detailed review of the current processes showed that there are several areas that could be improved and that the current system relies heavily on manual ad-hoc management of prisoner data from various secure sources and document-based workflows.

Register Dynamics was brought in to help digitise some of these key processes and to develop a tool to automate the categorisation process, in order to enable better data management within the prison system.

How we helped:

Discovery work from an existing supplier had demonstrated the potential for a new service utilising artificial intelligence (AI). Policy and technical stakeholders had different requirements for future work and were struggling to work together.

We interpreted the discovery and made clear how to meet each stakeholder’s goals in a way that scaled to every prison in the UK. We scoped out four distinct projects of work: the transformation of the existing service, development of an AI capability, a data integration platform and a cross-agency data collaboration.

Our roadmap brought together the policy and technical teams and enabled them to work together to deliver the project successfully. We achieved sign-off on the programme of work from senior stakeholders. We also recruited the senior members of the user-centered delivery team.

The result

This project was successfully delivered and extremely well received by all departments. It is already having an impact on reducing crime and enables the police and prison staff to make better-informed decisions.

The Justice Secretary David Gauke announced in a press release that they are committed to rolling this tool out across the UK with a £1m investment and that this new technology has already led to 12 of the most prolific criminals being moved to different prisons.

Our work here supports the MoJ’s objective of becoming a more data driven department and we are excited about the improvements and transformations still to come.