This week marked a milestone for the prison visit booking project…
HMP Gartree joined Rochester, Durham and Cardiff as a pilot prison for the 'alpha' phase. And booking requests for prison visits broke through the 1,000 mark.
Family and friends of people in these prisons are increasingly opting to use the digital prison visit booking service instead of busy phone lines to arrange their prison visits.
When the pilot prisons came together to share their experiences, we were expecting to have a difficult conversation about standardising the prison visit booking process.
For example, one of the prisons in the pilot had replaced one form with another rather than adopt the proposed process as intended. Also the visit booking staff were concerned about the changes and wanted to ensure the best outcome for prisoners and their visitors.
To our delight, they reported they’d dispensed with the new form two weeks ago and adopted our simplified paperless process.
What they then discovered was that it was much easier to process. And when booking requests, they could turn them around faster so the prisoners and visitors were happier. Win-win all round.
To paraphrase a booking team staff member, they’d held on tightly to the VOs (Visiting Orders) and the old process. But when they finally let go, they found their fears had been unfounded and it was much easier and better for them, the prisoners and their families.
The cherry on the cake was the pilot prisons offered to support other prisons in their regions when they come on board.
A great end to the week.