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The effect of digital technology on prisoner behavior and reoffending: a natural stepped-wedge design

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Publication details

JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
DateAccepted/In press - 18 Aug 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 12 Oct 2017
DatePublished (current) - 1 Dec 2017
Issue number4
Number of pages28
Pages (from-to)455-482
Early online date12/10/17
Original languageEnglish


Objectives: Although prisons aspire to rehabilitate offenders, they fail to prepare prisoners for release into our modern digitally sophisticated society. The objectives of the current study were to assess the impact of digital technology on the culture of prisons, and on prisoners’ ability to self-manage their behavior and reoffending. Method: Using a natural stepped-wedge design, 13 prisons in the UK were examined that had installed self-service technology over a period of 7 years. A longitudinal multi-level model was used to analyze frequencies of disciplinary proceedings within and between the prisons before and after installation. Reoffending was examined in comparison with a control sample. Quantitative results were supported by a prisoner survey and usage data. Results: Prison disciplinary offenses were significantly reduced over a two-year period, and reoffending in the first year after release was reduced by 5.36% compared to a 0.78% reduction in comparison prisons. The prisoner survey and usage data suggested that prisoners felt much more in control of their lives in prison and much more confident in coping with technology in the outside world. Conclusions: The changes created by the introduction of digital technology offer the opportunity to make prisons more efficient for staff, and places of improved learning and rehabilitation for prisoners, contributing to a safer society. This study offers an important contribution to the field of corrections, providing the first quantitative assessment of the effect of prisoner self-service technology on prisoner behavior and reoffending.

Bibliographical note

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

    Research areas

  • Digital exclusion, Digital technology, Offender rehabilitation, Prison misconduct, Prisoner reentry, Recidivism, Stepped-wedge design

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