Using Inside Connections to Support Offender Rehabilitation

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Could technology be used to support the rehabilitation and care of both Offenders and their families during their time in custody? Careers in Justice spoke to Jonathan Burton, founder of Inside Connections, to find out how his app aims to do just that and why he feels technology is needed in the UK prison system.


I am Johnathan Burton; the founder, designer and driving force behind Inside Connections (IC) – a company and social initiative that is committed to bringing catalytic change to Prison Reform and Offender Rehabilitation.

I designed the app and website, Inside Connections, in my prison cell using my own personal experiences (I was released from prison earlier this year after serving half of a 12-year sentence). During my time in prison, my family had to do 14 to 16-hour round trips to come and see me for a 1 hour visit. Being in prison serving a 12-year sentence and being so far away from my kids made me realise that this life wasn’t for me. I have been in and out of trouble from the age of 8 upwards and didn’t know anything different. I had to change and so I created Inside Connections.

Knowing that effective change could only come from the inside, I sought support from senior members of the UK Prison Service: Governor J Padley (HMP Stanford Hill) and Governor J McLaughlin (HMP Oakwood). Whilst in prison, their input and guidance helped me to hone my ideas and bring it to where it is today.

Inside Connections is based on everything that I have been through in the system and the things I have seen that need to be improved. Inside Connections tells prisoners’ families everything they need to know about the prison system; how it will be for their loved ones who are just going into prison for the first time or for those going in yet again. Not only do we have a map with all the prisons listed in the UK, we also have visiting times, booking numbers and directions, prison and prisoner categorisations, entry levels and information on moving forward in the system. Eventually, it will be a prison 101 for anything in the system.

Our goals are simple:

  • To create a support mechanism for the family members of prisoners:
  • We aim to make staying in touch with prisoners affordable and more personal, for example offering personalised cards that are a fraction of the cost of other services.
  • ‘My Diary’ – a social experiment that encourages the partners of prisoners to document their life experiences (good and bad) whilst their loved ones are away – with the novel ability to add videos (such as their baby’s first steps or their daughter’s graduation). Their loved one can then read this journal once released to REALLY understand how their incarceration effected the ones they love.
  • We are also working with major brands and organisations to deliver deals and promotions to our members to provide essentials for families struggling financially (not trivial spa days etc., but real world necessities such as groceries, kid’s shoes and clothing).
  • To become a rehabilitation catalyst that delivers real assistance in the form of:
  • Housing
  • Training
  • Employment (not just work schemes).
  • To provide charitable contributions:
  • We donate a percentage of our revenues to Prison Reform related charities and good causes.

 

There are still many more developments to come, but my hope is that we will be global within the next two years and, with the team we have around us, I can see that happening. I hope that using technology, like Inside Connections, we can take us out of the current outdated prison system. I think technology is now needed in our prisons to help bring them into the 21st century and give more education and learning from inside the cells. People will use it to make them better in life. I did all my work in my cell to design and create Inside Connections and now it’s finally happening.