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The importance of connectivity for a person involved in the criminal justice system

Updated: May 7, 2021

As part of our #UoNinterntakeover Tom Beardsley, who is currently studying an MA in International Security & Terrorism, shines a light digital immersion and the impact for people leaving custody.


We live in a society that’s so connected; it’s also disconnected. As we spend more of our time living online, we often forget those who are left behind. Smartphones have only been a part of our daily lives for a decade or less.

This narrow time frame makes it easy for anyone who has spent this time in prison to lag behind the rest of us. This can be challenging due of the advantages smartphones brings to messaging and becoming our main point for contacting people.

When someone is released from prison, they enter a different world to the one they left. Simple things we take for granted appear alien to them. They may not have used computers, smartphones, bank cards, or even fixed addresses. Provisions for accommodation are certainly a concern as more than 11,000 people in prison are released into homelessness each year[1]. A lack of understanding or access to these day-to-day facilities can make living in society a struggle.

"Whilst not advocating for the use of phones in prison, education of technology and modern society would go far to dealing with the issue of disconnection"

I met a graduate of the 3Pillars programme who spent over 10 years in prison who highlighted the risks involved with trying to understand mobile phones. The desire to get hold of one in prison through this curiosity was a criminal offense and bought further punishment to their time and experience in prison. Whilst not advocating for the use of phones in prison, education of technology and modern society would go far to dealing with the issue of disconnection.

Applying for jobs has shifted much closer to online application processes that require the use of computers. This has undoubtedly become more common in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This certainly plays a role in why 88% of people released from custody who are available for work within six weeks following their release are unemployed[2]. A person who has been released and hopeful of finding a job are immediately held at a disadvantage to the rest of us if they do not have access to day-to-day facilities.

This is where collaboration through a multi-agency approach is crucial to developing an effective long-term system approach to behaviour change for young children and adults and aiding their progression back into society.

Understanding of the local area presents opportunities to combat many issues at once. Opening hubs for example not only deals with the problems of disconnect with modern society by providing space to explore the online world through computers, but also provides a safe space for their protection to seek advice and support.

[1] HM Inspectorate of Probation 2019/20 Annual Report [2] HM Inspectorate of Probation 2019/20 Annual Report


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