Ministry of Justice
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How the Content Hub is taking on accessibility

Blog posted by: , 21 January 2022 – Categories: AccessibilityContentContent Hub Team.

The Content Hub is basically a restricted and secure intranet created, designed, developed and written solely for the prison estate. It's the only 100% prisoner-facing service in MOJ Digital and Technology. In developing it, we've been constantly awake to the needs of these users and their highly-specific accessibility requirements.

As outlined in the Equality Impact Assessment for the In-Cell Technology (ICT) Programme, we're working to give adequate and appropriate user support so that no individual across the prison estate is discriminated against or disadvantaged by the introduction of the tech.

Communication in the prison estate is extremely important, as mentioned in our last blog. It can mean the difference between a calm landing and 'association' session, and a fight breaking out. If prisoners can't get the information they need, or can't get to use the kiosks to send apps or check their personal information, this leads to frustration, anger, sometimes aggression and even violence. 

With the Content Hub, we have a great opportunity to create a new (hopefully, more efficient) way of communicating with prison prisoners. 

Accessibility on the Hub is top of the list

Why? It's widely accepted that many people in prison have limited literacy skills, on top of concentration and neurodiversity issues, alongside their own individual long-term trauma, addiction and mental health problems. Our research has shown that 100% written communication and verbal instruction can easily go unread or unheard due to a cocktail of some, or all, of these factors. How then, do prisoners learn the rules, processes and what goes on in the place in which they live?

An end to the paper trail 

All things have their place, of course, but in an increasingly information-heavy world, overloaded prison staff and traumatised prisoners (with literacy issues) communicating by paper notices under room doors does seem increasingly doomed to fail. Easy to say in hindsight. 

But communication by paper now seems outdated to us all, as well as it being:

  • expensive and time-consuming for staff (consider 'that temperamental printer')
  • frustrating for both staff and prisoners when the comms doesn't get through or is lost ('but why aren't I getting my visit?')
  • misunderstood or not understood by people in prison, due to poor literacy levels, mental health issues, problems with authority and other reasons too long to list here
  • type-heavy 'induction' packs with rules and info about the prison are given to prisoners when they first arrive and they can be in turmoil, mentally, physically and emotionally

Misinformation on the landings

So if paper isn't getting through, what is? We found the communication of prison rules and procedures by word-of-mouth could be even worse. Staff might get exhausted with prisoners constantly asking the same things. prisoners might pass on incorrect information, genuinely and on purpose. A combination of many opposing 'truths' can leave a newcomer, already in crisis, reeling.

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