Author: Pia Puolakka, Project Manager, Smart Prison Project, Criminal Sanctions Agency, Central Administration
The new women’s prison in Finland was completed on 1 November 2020. On 1st March 2021, all-female prisoners will get a personal cell terminal with a specific smart system installed. The Smart Prison Project was started in October 2018, and its purpose was to introduce a new prison concept that includes the use of digital services for rehabilitation, education, and reintegration. Each of the 100 single cells will be equipped with a cell terminal (laptop) that has a smart system provided by Gerdes (https://www.gerdes-ag.de/). The prisoners can use the system for messages, requests, and video calls to contact the staff and for video calls to communicate with relatives and people close to them. The cell terminal will have restricted access to the Internet (whitelist), such as studying via Moodle, online shopping, and other selected websites that support their rehabilitation and the management of daily affairs. The prisoners can also use the basic office tools and read and store material and e-books. They are also able to contact the prison health care services and other authorities and cooperation partners, such as NGOs.
Both the staff and the prisoners have already started training ICT skills and the use of the smart system. In January 2021, the prisoners will be able to learn basic digital skills by participating in a course called Digital Leap, which is organised by Kalliola Settlement Activities (NGO). The cell terminal will also have access to the website of the Elements of AI maintained by the University of Helsinki and Reaktor Education where they can learn about artificial intelligence. We have received good feedback from the staff members who have participated in the training of the new smart system. They think the system is easy to use and have come up with new ideas for developing the system further.
We have various partners in the Smart Prison concept. The Finnish Foundation for Supporting Ex-offenders (Krits) will provide online video consultation with a psychologist. Virtual Reality Model, piloted in three men’s prison in 2020, will also be taken into use in the new smart prison in 2021. Laurea University of Applied Sciences will do research on the experiences of digitalisation and the change in prison culture in the new prison.
The new smart prison is a pilot unit where we will test how digitalisation can support rehabilitation and a modern prison culture. In the future, the Criminal Sanctions Agency will consider extending this model to other closed prisons and digitalising the prison culture even further.
Pia Puolakka presented in September 2020 about the smart prison in Finland at the EuroPris ICT workshop on the subject: Intelligent Prisons – Smart Prison 2020: Digital Services, AI and VR in prisons. Click here to view Pia’s presentation and recording from the ICT Workshop.