The use of technology is widespread within criminal justice and penitentiary systems. Its primary purpose is the collation of electronic information and data systems and to strengthen security and surveillance. It can also be used to enhance opportunities for contact with the outside world for people in prison.
Technologies can help make prisons a safer environment for staff, people in prison and visitors, for example, through digital file management or body worn cameras which can prevent human rights violations and increase accountability. For court and probation purposes the use of technologies can enable information sharing and transparency, impacting fair trial rights and supporting people serving probation.
Although rapidly developing technological advancements can offer efficiencies and opportunities in prisons and as part of community sentences, they carry the risk of unfairly targeting certain population groups or denying basic human rights such as the right to privacy and the right to family life. There is also risk of reducing human contact for people in prison. There are some emerging technologies such as ‘predictive justice’ which use computer based criminal just algorithms to generate risk models for court or prison systems. These bring concerns around discriminatory application, such as racial profiling.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the past year has seen rapid advances in the use of technological solutions in prisons and wider criminal justice systems globally. Increased reliance on tech solutions to mitigate the impacts of restrictive regimes has, however, deepened the digital divide. While well-resourced prison systems were able to increase bandwidth and purchase new equipment as required, lack of infrastructure or resources in many countries meant people in prison could not benefit from technologies.
As part of our 2020-2023 strategy we hope to develop our ability and knowledge around the use of technology and artificial intelligence in criminal justice systems. This will guide justice actors in mitigating impacts of technologies on the human rights of people in contact with criminal justice systems. We will conduct research to develop our knowledge and approach, engaging with governments and international actors to develop best-practice.
Ethnic and religious minorities
Rehabilitation and reintegration