At the National Digital Inclusion conference I noticed a few tweets from attendees about people in prison using the internet. I wasn’t actually in the conference hall at the time, so I’m not sure why this conversation started or what the original discussion was. It just sent me slightly off on one in my head.
I’m a massive fan of Radio 4 and I remember hearing a documentary ages ago about prisoners who were given tape recorders so they could tape themselves reading bedtime stories to the children they’d been separated from. It was a lovely project – it improved the prisoners’ literacy and helped them to continue their relationship with their loved ones whilst they were inside.
So it got me to thinking – is there no way they could be allowed to use some social media/networking tools to help with the same ends? I voiced this to Nick Booth, who’s had some experience working with prisons and he told me that prison-based projects should fulfill these aims:
- Increase future employability by giving prisoners skills they can use in the workplace.
- Reduce prisoners’ inclination to reoffend by reinforcing their connections with the outside world, such as their families.
Both of which social media could help with. Of course there are obvious obstacles, the chief one being how to retain an element of control over prisoners’ use so they don’t abuse it.
I’m sure a lot of people can think of a lot of reasons against this idea and probably think I’m bonkers for so much as suggesting it. But for me, social media is largely about connecting people. Which is the one thing a prisoner can’t do. So if these tools could somehow be used to help them sustain their relationships with loved ones, which means they’ll have a support network when released, and teach them a skillset that could attract employers, it might be worth thinking about how the obvious obstacles could be overcome.