Name: Unilink Software
Date founded: 1994
Founders: Francis Toye
Born in a police and detention centre at Harmondsworth, close to Heathrow, after just six months Unilink had developed the first integration of an effective biometrically enabled detainee management system.
Following its success in developing a biometric offender management system, implemented across all of Sodexo’s outsourced UK sites including prisons and probation centres, Unilink identified a gap in the market for prisoner self-service, developing a technology which completely changes the way prisons operate.
The technology works on the basis that in most prisons, inmates make thousands of requests, ranging from requests for shopping, finance services, visits, health appointments, drug treatment, employment, education and so on. As such, prisons in the UK circulate around 500,000 to two million sheets of paper a year on average.
Unilink’s system of self-service, touch-screen kiosks means requests that used to take weeks can now be done in seconds. The system is capable of over 50 different processes, and has carried out over a billion prisoner transactions to date, making prisons more collaborative and rehabilitative environments.
A good example of the Unilink system’s disruptiveness is in visitations. Previously, documents were given to prisoners, which indicated who each visit order is to be addressed to. Friends and family subsequently contact the prison visitation number to arrange a visit. This arrangement is then passed on to the prisoner and manually entered into a prisoner’s “schedule”. This process typically takes up to two weeks.
To counter the problem, the government created an online process through the .gov website that took between three to four days. Through Unlink’s touchscreen kiosks, prisoners select the time and book visits, confirming them by means of a fingerprint. Unilink then automatically sends confirmation to visitors via email or text message, taking all of 30 seconds in total. The process takes no intervention, and more importantly no administration, from prison staff at all. This is just one of the 50 processes implemented on Unilink’s self-service custodial management system (CMS) making prisons operate in a faster, cheaper and more effective manner.
By allowing prioners more responsibility over their own lives they gain the skills and confidence to learn how to better look after themselves, becoming less likely to re-offend and commit crimes in the future. Unilink aims to increase the chance of prisoner rehabilitation outside of the UK going forward. So far, the company have expanded into the US, the Middle East and Australia, with partnerships anticipated with correctional facilities in the UAE.
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