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    HMP & YOI Doncaster

    HMP & YOI Doncaster has implemented a bespoke telephone communications system with the support of technology experts Unify.

    The solution uses cutting edge technology to improve prisoner communications whilst maintaining maximum security in the prison. 


    The challenge

    HMP & YOI Doncaster is a local prison managed by Serco Home Affairs and houses 1,145 male prisoners. The prison was experiencing issues related to the traditional pay phone system in operation, with prisoner access to telephone calls a common cause of unrest.

    The number of phones available, combined with limited prisoner usage time, meant demand far exceeded the resources available and the telephone system became a source of conflict between staff and prisoners. Frustrations could arise and incidents of bullying did occur. 

    Prisoners sought access to mobile phones due to the conventional options being expensive and inconvenient. This also presented a range of issues, from interfering with witnesses to evading child protection issues, with prison staff going to great lengths to detect and remove them.

    Staff recognised the importance of family contact, not least to the resettlement and re-offending rates, but also at critical times when prisoners are in a low mood and considering self harm – reaching out and being able to make contact is vitally important.

    Serco operates at the forefront of modern technology and are committed to finding new ways to deliver prison services more effectively. Working in partnership with Unify to develop a modern telephony solution has reinforced this commitment and resulted in many enhancements to the prison environment.

    The solution

    Unify developed an innovative in-cell telephone solution to work seamlessly with the everyday running of the prison. 

    Telephones were installed in individual rooms allowing prisoners to maintain regular communication and in private. The PIN system gives staff the flexibility to control and restrict usage for each individual, including a pre-authorised number list, calling at certain times of a day, as well as security features including call monitoring and lockdown for immediate disablement.

    The system also makes it possible for foreign national prisoners to contact family at a time that is suitable for them and not just for staff. 

    John Biggin, director at HMP & YOI Doncaster explained “The solution supports our ability to have a very efficient core day and makes the day to day operations more simple and manageable. Modern prison contracts require consideration to innovations and betterment within a prison, and the in cell systems installed by Unify are regarded as exactly that.”

    A mobile phone detection system has also been installed that means the standard detection methods like staff intelligence processes and hand held detectors are no longer necessary. The in cell detection system, which is a passive system, has been installed in every cell at HMP & YOI Doncaster. It presents significant opportunity to detect and retrieve mobile phones at the time they are being used. It is a proactive measure that will help remove a significant problem.

    “The ability to detect mobile telephones is going to be a huge benefit. This is a very discreet system, so much so that prisoners do not even know it has been installed and it would not be possible to reach or access any of the infrastructures.”

    The outcome

    The implementation of the new telephone solution has reduced demand on staff time and eliminated the conflict that occurred at shut down time. The result is a more settled population.

    “One of the things we are particularly keen on at Doncaster is for prisoners to take responsibility for their own lives. So, having access to the in cell telephony solution works with our core values and brings many benefits.”

    The demand for mobile telephones has significantly reduced to the point where Doncaster reports that they are no longer an issue. This is recognised as a direct result of the new telephone solution.

    A surprising outcome has also been the intelligence generated when prisoners are speaking privately in their own cells, with the intelligence being more commonplace that first anticipated. 


    John Biggin, director at HMP & YOI Doncaster

    “One of the really impressive things about Unify has been the speed and efficiency of getting the technology into the cells, as the installation of the new telephone solution was delivered ahead of schedule. The company is at the leading edge of innovation through the use of new technology and they always deliver.

    “Flexibility is extremely important and Unify have the capacity and ethic to respond to our demands – when we say we want something, typically we get it and at an impressive turnaround time. 

    “We are delighted with the outcome of the new system and our ongoing partnership with Unify.”