Thousands of prisoners are being rated according to their chances of being involved in violence and disturbances under a new scheme to tackle the jails safety crisis.

Inmates are given a “score” based on their perceived likelihood of participating in assaults, fights or riots.

Staff can use the data to inform decisions such as what wing an individual is placed in and prisoners’ activity and work programmes.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) confirmed to the Press Association that the “digital reporting tool” is being piloted in 16 jails.

It is expected to be rolled out across the estate following positive feedback from officers and governors.

The tool draws on a raft of data on prisoners’ conduct during their time behind bars – including their involvement in assaults, disorder and seizures of contraband such as drugs and mobile phones – as well as demographic information and location history.

Details about new incidents are logged on the database shortly after they take place, which can result in new scores being generated.

Inmates’ “violence scores” can change to take into account improvements or deteriorations in their behaviour.

An MoJ spokesman said: “We are currently piloting a digital reporting tool in 16 prisons across the UK.

“The application sorts and analyses live operational data, providing an overview of prisoner behaviour to inform decisions about offender management.

“The aim of the pilot is to arm prison officers with the very latest information in order to help them improve prison safety.

“Feedback has been extremely positive and we are considering rolling the tool out across the estate.

“We are committed to ensuring our prisons are safe environments which allow offenders to effectively rehabilitate and turn away from a life of crime.”

Details of the scheme were first set out by Dr Jonathan Roberts, head of the MoJ’s data science hub, at a conference in Canberra last month.

He said the tool has been “incredibly well-welcomed”, the website ZDNet reported.

The scheme has been trialled at Pentonville Prison in north London (Charlotte Ball/PA)
The scheme has been trialled at Pentonville Prison in north London (Charlotte Ball/PA)

The pilot, which started in late November, is the latest measure introduced as part of the Government’s efforts to drive down violence that has hit much of the prisons estate in England and Wales.

There were a record 28,165 assault incidents in jails in the 12 months to September 2017, including 7,828 attacks on staff. A string of major disturbances also erupted at the height of the crisis.

Other tactics being explored include proposals to transfer inmates with gang links to higher-security establishments to choke off the influence of criminal kingpins.

Ministers are also looking at whether the incentives regime can be used more effectively – including the possibility of offering well-behaved prisoners extra contact time with family members using technology such as Skype.

The prisons where the data tool has been piloted are Cookham Wood, Exeter, Gartree, Haverigg, Huntercombe, Leicester, Liverpool, Norwich, Pentonville, Bullingdon, Preston, Stocken, Swaleside, Wymott, Cardiff and Doncaster.