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15 June 2022

What new technology is being used to support an ageing prison population?

The worldwide population is ageing dramatically and this too is reflected in prison populations throughout the world.  In the UK, older prisoners (aged 50 and over) accounted for 17% of the population in 2021, compared to 7% in 2002, with projections indicating further rises.

Advancing age for many people, irrespective of where they are cared for, is often associated with frailty, leading to the risk of adverse outcomes such as falls, disabilities, and the requirement for more intensive care.

This poses urgent financial, medical and planning challenges for Prison Services including additional demands on officers to deliver increased medical services and to provide specialised housing units to accommodate prisoners’ medical and physical disabilities.

Many Prison Services have taken to meet the needs of this population and have introduced new strategies and technology to improve their medical care.

Tele-Mentoring Programme

An innovative partnership scheme is helping prison staff across Northern Ireland deal with a number of healthcare issues within the prison population, including self-harm and palliative care, as the prison population ages.

Originally developed in New Mexico, Project ECHO® involves the use of videoconferencing technology to bring clinicians together to participate in guided practice discussions with specialist mentors.

Telehealth Programs

While Prison Services will always have to send some prisoners to hospitals, prison officials have introduced telehealth programmes to reduce inpatient stays, cut transportation and security costs and give greater choice of specialists.

HMPPS in February 2020 introduced a local prison-hospital telemedicine model as a new way of delivering clinical care to prisoners. The Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care Systems (ICS ) study looked to radically reduce face to face outpatient appointments with telemedicine likely to be one method deployed to meet this aim.

Robotic Prison Guard

South Korea have piloted a robotic prison guard that uses motion and thermal sensors, as well as a built-in camera, to detect and gauge a prisoner’s emotional state and begin recording what it identified as “unusual behaviour”.  Notification and video feeds would be sent to the prison control room when a possible incident is detected.

In-cell sensor to detect multiple behaviours

The Lava Group have developed a non-intrusive monitoring solution, utilising sensor based technology to monitor multiple behaviours including agitation in autism sufferers, Alzheimer’s wandering, sedentary behaviour and fall detection.  It empowers officers with real time information about behavioural status of prisoners; enabling officers to react more quickly and make a positive difference to the care they offer.

At The Lava Group, we stay on top of the latest technology trends and keep a close eye on the happenings in the high security industry.  

We understand prison environments are challenging, and that security needs to be efficient and manageable.  We work collaboratively with clients to reach solutions that address efficiency, cost and functionality, with a focus on delivering a safe and secure environment for all. 


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