I take it as a given that the world and his dog is online, using email, has a mobile phone and knows how to use it. Well OK, my mum continues to struggle with predictive text and asked me recently ‘darling, what’s this about birds telling people what they’re doing’ – ‘do you mean Twitter, mum’ - but she’s there, she has a presence in this technologically driven world.
The proliferation of these technologies has created such a profound socio-technical change in the way we live our lives (I don’t remember a time without Google or Facebook) - 60% of current and 90% of new jobs require ICT skills and our social and family networks are increasingly maintained online.
The impact of these changes seems to be ubiquitous - a recent research report highlighted the increasing divide that the changes in the way young people communicate are creating between children and their parents – and they see each other everyday. Imagine then, if you have been imprisoned, without access to any of these communication devices or facilities, unaware of the rapid changes that are occurring in the way we work, learn or socialise.
It’s clear that embedding technology - not necessarily just computers and the internet - is vital in prisons. In Norway, prisoners have computers in their cells with internet access. This might be shocking for some, but as the Norwegian prison officer explained to Erwin James, "… they must be able to access the internet, to help in their education and also so that they know they are still connected to the world."
Undeniably, there are some great examples of progress taking place in some UK prisons but we seem to be a fair distance away from the Norway ideal. Movement is however in the right direction and the PLN will be exploring this further in its forthcoming reports.