Catch up with our latest webinar with Kate Fraser, Head of Prison Partnerships and Women’s Participation at Women in Prison.  You can access the full transcript of the video above.


Digital Inclusion for Women in Prison: Reducing Digital Poverty

Women in prison face many challenges, but digital poverty is often overlooked. Digital inclusion is essential for empowering incarcerated women, providing them with vital access to social networks, educational opportunities, and employment. By reducing digital poverty, prisons can provide these women with the resources they need to successfully reintegrate into society and build better lives for themselves.

Female inmates are particularly vulnerable to digital exclusion, facing several barriers including limited access to the internet, lack of understanding about how to use technology, and inadequate infrastructure for digital literacy courses. As a result, women in prison are often unable to access basic services and support, which can lead to further marginalisation and alienation. In 2018, it was estimated that more than one-third of women in prison lacked access to basic IT skills, with many having little or no access to digital technology at all. This lack of access was exacerbated by the pandemic, with prisons unable to allow visitors, leaving prisoners even more isolated from society.

Technology provides valuable services and opportunities to women in prison, including educational opportunities and resources. It can also allow women to remain connected with family and friends, reducing social isolation and increasing the chances of successful reintegration into society. But, despite digital access being recognised as crucial for reintegration, women in prison are frequently excluded from these opportunities by several factors.

Firstly, there are often financial barriers to digital inclusion, with many women recently released from prison not having access to the funds necessary to purchase a computer or a mobile phone. Additionally, prison environments may restrict access to technology, including limited internet access and limited access to educational courses. Furthermore, many prisons do not offer support or guidance to women in accessing technology.

Without access to technology, many women struggle to keep up to date with the outside world, leaving them more vulnerable to reoffending upon release.

Research has found that women in prison who participate in digital inclusion initiatives are more likely to gain employment after release and are less likely to reoffend. In fact, a recent study of over 1,300 female prisoners in England and Wales found that those who had received digital skills training were two-thirds less likely to be convicted of a new offence within 12 months of release compared to those who did not receive such training.

The availability of technology can also help women maintain contact with their children, friends and family members during their sentences and foster healthy relationships upon release. This can be instrumental in reducing the risk of reoffending and help them stay on the right path once they leave prison.

Digital inclusion is essential for ensuring that women in prison have the same access to opportunities as everyone else, and it is vital in helping reduce reoffending rates. By investing in digital inclusion and skills training initiatives, we can help ensure that women have the support they need to lead successful lives after they leave prison.

Ultimately, digital inclusion is an important issue for women in prisons in the UK, and one that requires a concerted effort from government, prison authorities, and civil society organizations. By promoting digital skills training, providing access to technology and internet resources, and developing policies that support digital inclusion, we can help to ensure that women in prisons are able to access the same opportunities and resources as their peers outside of prison walls.

Written by Eleanor Crouch, Head of Digital