Using Service Design Methods for the Best Prison in the World

The Criminal Sanctions Agency and Senate Properties are undertaking a globally unique project which tries to create the best women’s prison in the world. The idea is that by the time of release, prisoners should be better equipped to go on living a life without crime.

Tiia Lappalainen, 11.12.2018

Lue suomeksi.

What would make the best prison in the world?

It should at least be able to release the prisoners with as many capabilities and as much motivation as possible to face the world and live a life without committing more crimes.

The best prison in the world, a learning environment for a life without crime, is currently coming true in Hämeenlinna. The new women’s prison opens in 2020. It’s been designed on the basis of effectiveness and from the point of view of activities and working culture. This means that effective services and activities are designed first, and these are then supported by the facility solutions.

Experts from the Criminal Sanctions Agency, Senate Properties and its partner network came together to think about how this can be achieved and what kinds of activities and services are needed in prisons.

“The activities and services of prisons were explored from four different angles: from the point of view of research, the future, customer and staff experience, and production factors,” says the Consulting Officer in charge of the concept service, Anne Sundqvist from Senate Properties.

The development of the new prison has been a major and multi-disciplinary joint effort, using dozens of different methods.

In addition to the Criminal Sanctions Agency and Senate Properties, other involved parties were Workspace Oy, Melkior Oy, Delfoi Oy and Marketing Clinic Finland Oy (formerly Kopla Helsinki Oy).

Structure for a fragmented service offering

Tavoitteena on rakentaa vankila, joka tähtää rikoksettomaan elämään, eli siihen, että vangit vapautuvat mahdollisimman hyväkuntoisina ja heillä on taitoja ja kykyä sopeutua ja löytää paikkansa yhteiskunnasta.

The aim is to build a prison which focuses on a crime-free life, that is to say that the prisoners are released in the best possible condition and that they have the skills and abilities to adapt and find their place in society.

Pauli Nieminen, Performance Management Director of the Criminal Sanctions Agency, reminds that the starting point is safety. Without it there is no basis for development.

“By improving proactive and interaction-based, dynamic security, the prison provides a safe working environment for staff and partners as well. From a prisoner’s point of view, it is a safe environment for serving their time, participating in activities and learning new skills. Without a feeling of safety, no rehabilitation can take place,” Nieminen says.

The new prison is increasingly moving towards guidance and rehabilitation activities and contact work.

Of course, the idea is not new.

Prisons have had many different services, rehabilitation activities, training opportunities and work on offer before, as well.

How do the solutions offered in the new women’s prison in Hämeenlinna differ from earlier solutions?

Among other things, in the number of prisoners who are involved in rehabilitation activities.

“We noticed that there was large variation from one group of prisoners to the next. Many prisoners took part in rehabilitation activities only two hours a day, which is very little. Now, we are gradually increasing the number of hours, and simulations tell us that the facilities are sufficient even for highly ambitious goals,” Anne Sundqvist says.

Another discovery was that for some prisoner segments there were no services available.

“The aim is to increase the self-reliance of prisoners and the actual time they spend in activities. We have structured the design of the services and service offerings based on the prisoners’ needs, their ability to function, their attitude to change and, in particular, the effectiveness of the activity,” Anne Sundqvist says.

The developers involved in the project created together a diverse service map, which brings together all the services offered by the prison and ensures that there is something for everyone.

“In the past, the services have been more fragmented and not necessarily accessible to everyone,” Sundqvist says.

A night in a cell opens your eyes

Charting the daily lives of the prisoners showed that especially their arrival in prison and return to freedom were critical points. These two were given special attention.

In the development of the arrival phase, the path of the prisoner’s experience was visualized. It illustrates the kind of things prisoners confront, what feelings and thoughts they face in different situations, and how they would wish to be encountered. This kind of presentation gives concrete form to the prisoner’s perspective, and has produced a number of insights into the development of activities and culture.

Activities will also concern the future more than before, i.e. what skills the prisoners might need in the future after their release—how they could become employed, for example—and how the services can continue as smoothly as possible after the prisoner has been released.

“The future and the kind of society in which the prisoner is released are really important. This can be challenging, because the amount of money spent on this depends on the motivation of the prisoner’s municipality. In the long run, society will save money by investing in prisoners and service continuity,” Pauli Nieminen says.

“Our primary role in the developer team has been to bring the customers’ needs, everyday experiences and voice into the design of the activities and the facilities,” Kati Nurminen from Marketing Clinic encapsulates.

In-depth interviews and workshops for both prisoners and staff have been at the center of the planning of prison activities. In order to understand prison life, the developers have made many prison visits and even stayed overnight to get a better picture of everyday life in prison.

“Some of the stories really make you think. There is hard stuff and sad stories, but also hope and a will to change the direction of life. The importance of encounters is magnified immensely in a prison environment. Listening to prisoners and facing them as fellow human beings is important,” Kati Nurminen says.

Cooperation of over 100 people

Over 100 people were involved in the development, planning and participation. A wide range of methodologies was employed in the creation of customer insight and the definition of services and culture, from ethnography to in-depth interviews and co-creation workshops.

“The workshops were attended by prisoners and prison staff as well as by experts and the partners who produce services. The inclusion of different stakeholders at the planning stage guarantees validated and tailored solutions,” Kati Nurminen notes.

The solutions are applicable on a national level as well; in other words, although the work focuses on the Hämeenlinna women’s prison, it can also be adopted in other prisons. From the beginning of 2018, all units of the Criminal Sanctions Agency have begun defining service maps according to the Hämeenlinna prison model. Also, the development of the customer information system takes into account the framework of effectiveness that was created during the work.

The new model will place extra demands on staff, as it also requires a new approach to work by the employees. The question is not only about services, but about a holistic, rehabilitative working culture and respectful interaction.

Perseverance and far-reaching Service Design

When it comes to prison design and better services for prisoners, the question often asked is “why?”. The prisoners are suffering a deserved punishment, after all.

”It makes sense even on a societal level to reduce the risk of recidivism. In the future, prisoners will be better rehabilitated to a life without crime. If we manage to reduce the rate of re-offending by 10%, society will save EUR 180 million a year,” Pauli Nieminen says.

“In prison, a person’s autonomy is restricted. According to the Law on imprisonment, the rest of the circumstances should be as normal and as rehabilitative as possible. It serves the purpose of no-one if people being released from prison are even more distressed than they were before prison. It is also costly for society.

The development work at the Hämeenlinna prison has been a long process.

Kati Nurminen therefore calls for perseverance in Service Design, and solutions that are based on solid knowledge and customer understanding.

“Customer understanding is the basis for development, an integral part of which is also looking boldly into the future. Effective, responsive to real needs and constantly evolving—that is our recipe for strategic design,” Nurminen concludes.

Design Thinking for Business Innovation program from Aalto EE and ESADE Business School will take you on a seven-day deep dive into its practical and actionable methodology and show you how to make it work. Service Design was one of the methodologies used in the project, and it can be studied in Aalto PRO’s popular Service Design program

Multiple operators collaborate to reform Hämeenlinna prison

  • Senior Specialist (IDBM Pro) Anne Sundqvist of Senate Properties headed the concept service provided to the Criminal Sanctions Agency.  Senate gathered a multidisciplinary team of experts and produced an expert service with the help of Workspace Ltd. and its network.
  • Senate Properties and Workspace Ltd. took joint responsibility for strategic development, component coordination and overall management. The work of the partner network was led by Pasi Kaitila from Workspace Ltd.
  • Juha Eskelinen from Melkior Ltd. was responsible for defining the effectiveness targets, indicators and economic criteria that guided the service development.
  • Kati Nurminen led the customer insight and Service Design work by Marketing Clinic Finland Ltd. (formerly Kopla Helsinki Ltd.).
  • Led by Vesa Paju, Delfoi Ltd. did extensive work in describing new service and production processes and validating the solutions with simulations.
  • Experts from the Criminal Sanctions Agency as well as the Hämeenlinna prison and the extensive partner network of the Criminal Sanctions Agency contributed extensively to the cooperation.
  • Many prisoners also participated in the work.

Additional information

Pauli Nieminen, Performance Management Director, Criminal Sanctions Agency
Anne Sundqvist, Senior Specialist, Senate Properties

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