This Prison Software Entrepreneur Aims To Reduce Reoffending by Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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Francis Toye, Founder of UnilinkUnilink

Modern imprisonment is – or least should be – about more than exacting vengeance and deterrence. This is only rational given that most people seem to agree that most criminals are deserving of a second chance. We should care as much about the (potential) future victims of crime as we do about those who have already suffered, so we should care about rehabilitation as well as retribution.

Of course, the billion dollar question is how to actually rehabilitate criminals. Like most of the world’s problems, entrepreneurs will have a role to play in helping us get closer to a solution, and technology will have a role to play in scaling it. One company that may be a piece in this puzzle is Unilink. Awarded the Innovation Award for Prisoner Self-Service Technology and the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Innovation, its software increases prisoners’ autonomy and decreases bureaucracy in prisons to allow management and guards to focus on what matters. I caught up with Francis Toye, Unilink’s founder and CEO, to find out more.

Philip Salter: What is Unilink and why is it unique?

Francis Toye: In short, Unilink develops and supplies solutions that make prisons work better. This works by improving safety as well as efficiency. Prisoners, prison officers and the management of prisons all benefit. With permission from the Ministry of Justice, the University of York analysed the results from about a dozen prisons and found that it increased safety and decreased prison officers’ sickness. There were fewer adjudications, and eventually there was also a significant reduction in recidivism. We have a considerable body of evidence that our software has a positive impact in prisons.

Salter: What exactly is the product and how does it work?

Toye: We call it the Custodial Management System. It has prisoner self-service with all the functions prisoners need: their earnings and saving accounts, shopping spending money they have earned and saved, paying for phone calls, arranging their visits, reading notices, faqs, surveys and applications: for jobs, training and so on.  Everything that a prisoner needs to do, but which in a normal prison requires a piece of paper and hours of prison officers’ time. Prisoners submit over twenty transactions per day and over 1.5 billion so far.  The system is well tested. In the UK prisoners have already submitted 50m transactions as part of the Digital Prisons project. 

Salter: Has going international and working with large companies been critical to Unilink’s development?

Toye: It is never easy for small companies, however innovative, to bring new ideas and concepts to Government. It was a lot easier because a company like Serco, for example, would look at the product, see it makes prisons safer and helps save officers’ time, decide to use it and move on to the next decision. Decisions like that aren’t taken so easily in the public sector.  However, we have had a great deal of success in Australia where they have taken on Unilink’s products with great alacrity.

Salter: What countries are you looking at expanding into or are already operating in?

Toye: We are looking at New Zealand and a few more states in Australia. In Europe, we’re looking at a number of countries; we have to focus on sophisticated prisons –  say there is a cell designed for 20 with 100 prisoners in it, then there are other priorities. 

Salter: Do you have views on prison reform?

Toye: Our system enables prisoners to be given more responsibility for their own lives, and has freed up time which can be used for rehabilitation.

Salter: What are your future ambitions? 

Toye: Our exports grew 250 per cent last year and I want that level of growth to continue. We have a few big projects in the UK and Australia that we want to ensure are successful and use them as springboards to continue international expansion.

March 11, 2019 at 02:43PM
https://www.forbes.com/sites/philipsalter/2019/03/11/this-prison-software-entrepreneur-aims-to-reduce-reoffending/
Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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