08 Dec 2023
by Andy Lea

The MOJ Metaverse?

GenAI has dominated the tech headlines for much of 2023, with government now experimenting on applications such as GDS’s work with a GenAI bot for GOV.UK.   Back in 2022, it was all about the metaverse though and in this blog I’d like to revisit the potential of an MOJ metaverse to reduce reoffending, develop the skills and capabilities of its staff, and deliver a more efficient justice system. 

The metaverse can be defined as a network of virtual worlds, which can combine digital online and real life experiences.  It’s believed that Web 3.0 will transition this experience to the mainstream, with improvements that mimic real life, sensations and co-presence. Just thinking about prisons, it is easy to see the benefits of providing more lifelike experiences to prisoners who can’t access those experiences in real life. 

Given in-cell technology is only deployed in ~10% of the prison estate in England and Wales, one might argue the application of the metaverse in justice is a long way away. But 20,000 modern/smart prison places will be available through the MOJ’s new build programme in the 2020s and further technology roll out is planned across the estate. Therefore now is the perfect time to explore how the metaverse could improve justice outcomes and build on current successes such as the Hub. 


Reducing reoffending 

Even within the security constraints of a prison environment, it’s not difficult to imagine a series of connected virtual worlds or spaces that support a prisoner through their rehabilitation journey. These could include: 

  • Academic campuses, providing content and cohort-based educational interaction. 

  • Employer zones, offering simulated and near real life experiences of different job opportunities. 

  • Family zones, which could be especially beneficial in enabling prisoners to play with their children in secure virtual environments. 

It could also be possible to design such worlds to support a prisoner’s transition from prison to probation.  For example, once released and with full access to the internet, additional content might be available in the virtual world, providing the offender an enhanced support offer and seamless journey. This could be tailored to HMPPS’s regional structure, providing local content and support the newly appointed Area Directors to join up services. 

Whilst more focused on consumer markets, Capgemini research1 found that 77% of respondents believe immersive experiences will significantly change their interaction with people/brands and services. It’s also notable that people under 40 are most familiar with the metaverse. And with 62% of the prison population in England and Wales also under 402, it’s not unreasonable to think the metaverse could play a role in positively enhancing a prisoner’s experience inside. 


Supporting recruitment, retention and development 

In our research, two-thirds of organisations think immersive technology will help their employees do their jobs better. There are well documented examples on the impact the metaverse and immersive technology can have on skills development.  Microsoft’s HoloLens has increased the efficiency of medical training by 60% whilst saving $1440 per trainee3.  There are lots of applications for immersive learning experiences in prisons and probation, from public safety training or simulation of lock downs through to building confidence and soft skills when interacting with prisoners or individuals on probation. 

Equally leading organisations are using the metaverse for talent attraction, recruitment and onboarding.  At Capgemini we’ve hosted Metaverse Career Fairs across 7 countries and now run global events where potential candidates can discover our new metaverse escape room, work with other participants to solve sustainability challenges and connect to local recruitment teams.  

Designing immersive experiences that give candidates a day in the life of a prison or probation officer could bolster current recruitment efforts. 


Making the justice system more efficient 

Digital twins offer huge potential to increase efficiency in justice. Most major manufacturers now operate digital twins (or enterprise metaverses) to model, simulate and optimise production in real time.  For example Renault has its own metaverse which holds data on its 8,500 production components and 100% of its supply chain data.  Using its digital twin, it aims optimise production to reduce delivery times by 60% whilst halving its carbon footprint4. 

Digital twins for justice could be considered in a number of ways.  Firstly, to simulate and optmise overall performance of the criminal justice system, across the many complex interactions from the point of arrest, court, prison and probation. In this context, a justice digital twin has potential to aid both strategic and operational planning.  Secondly, to model, simulate and optimise the operations of particular justice assets - whether that be a court building or a prison – looking at throughput/asset utilisation, optimisation of the supply chain or reduction of the carbon impact of their operations. 



So is the idea of an MOJ Metaverse that difficult to believe?  I don’t think so.  93% of people we surveyed are metaverse curious. There is an inevitability of where consumer behaviour and tech goes, the public sector will follow.  A new generation of technology enabled prisons, a desire to join up services under One HMPPS and momentum recruiting prison and probation officers make now the perfect time to explore the potential of the metaverse across the justice system. 

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Andy Lea

Andy Lea

Vice President at Capgemini