HMP Lowdham Grange, managed and operated by Serco on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, is piloting a unique and innovative new computer-based initiative which is helping to reduce prisoners’ violent behaviour by rewarding and encouraging good behaviour.
The Community Reward Incentive Scheme, known as ‘CRIS’, is a points-based reward scheme modelled on customer loyalty reward schemes commonly used by retailers around the world.
Under the scheme, prisoners are rewarded with points for good personal and community behaviour, which they are then able to spend to gain various privileges such as additional credit for telephone calls to family, an enhanced family visit experience or an additional clothing allowance.
Points can be accrued through attendance at scheduled activities such as work, education and healthcare appointments etc. and can be tracked and spent by prisoners utilising their in-cell technology or the wing based electronic kiosks. Bonus points can be awarded by prison officers to each community on a weekly basis where there are no violent acts or incidents. It also allows officers to award points to individuals or groups of prisoners for specific reasons, such as charity event participation.
Mark Hanson, Serco’s Contract Director at HMP Lowdham Grange, said:
“CRIS was requested and designed by prisoners for prisoners. It aims to reduce violence and help make their communities safer and is based on the approach of ‘Rewarding good behaviour, rather than just punishing the bad’. It is already having a noticeable effect in our prison.
“I believe that CRIS is the first scheme of its kind anywhere in the world. It encourages all prisoners to behave well both on and off their living areas, as their individual behaviour could affect the points earned as individuals and others within their community. This enforces the ethos that all prisoners will take responsibility for their own actions, good behaviour and engagement with sentence planning targets.”
CRIS has been designed for Serco by their technology partner, Unify. Adam Esposito of Unify said:
“Serco gave Unify a definitive brief on the outcome of the solution required to support the implementation of their CRIS programme. It was crucial that the system was easy to administer for prison staff and was easy to interpret and use for prisoners.
“Unify has previous experience of working closely with Serco and the Custodial Sector to develop specific solutions, so we were confident that our experience and expertise would deliver a solution that not only provided the prison with a reliable and secure system to monitor the CRIS programme, but one that could also be administered by prisoners themselves, either via communal kiosks or from in-cell terminals.”
The user platform Unify REWARD is accessed online, gives prison staff intelligence based on a unique insight into prisoner behaviour, both as individuals and as groups. This information can be looked at based on a range of criteria such as a specific prison wing or area.
Prisoners use their PIN to access the system through their in-cell interactive screens or through the electronic kiosks on the prison wings. The user platform gives prisoners an easy to navigate system and provides at-a-glance and detailed view of all their personal transactions, spends and credits. They can also use the system to ‘purchase’ incentives with their accrued points.
CRIS does not operate in a punitive way. Prisoners who are members of the scheme can have collection and spending of points frozen for various set periods ranging from 14 to 90 days following poor behaviour or an incident, but a member of the scheme cannot have points removed; once earned points are honoured.
Prisoner Led Incentives
It is extremely important to get prisoners to buy in to prison initiatives and to see the value in conforming and what they get in return. Working with the Prisoner Information and Activity Committee, Serco were able to provide a scheme that was prisoner led, with rewards that are prisoner defined and, in turn, encourage compliance and improved behaviour. The incentives available will continue to be reviewed and amended to ensure that the CRIS system remains relevant to the prisoners it effects and builds a culture of positive rehabilitation.
The CRIS Programme is now being piloted by Serco at HMP Lowdham Grange and has already attracted a lot of interest and attention. Working in conjunction with previous innovations such as the Prison Advice Line, the CRIS administrators are now working towards streamlining the process of processing points earned and spent ready to expand the programme prison-wide. Unify’s ability to react quickly to this streamlining process has allowed the programme to adapt to challenges as they have arisen with the Unify and Serco partnership continuing to address new technical and operational challenges as the system grows.