Prisoners to train artificial intelligence as part of developing work activities

Published 13.3.2019

Training artificial intelligence is the most recent form of prison work. The Criminal Sanctions Agency and Vainu company have signed a cooperation agreement according to which Vainu will purchase prison work for training artificial intelligence. The Criminal Sanctions Agency is constantly seeking to develop work activities towards making them more rehabilitative and matching the requirements of modern working life.

Vainu's business is based on information search. The company reads approximately 20,000 Finnish text contents a day that deal with companies. The texts can be news or documents picked up from company websites, the social media or elsewhere.

The duty of the prisoners is to train artificial intelligence so that it finds correct data for Vainu. The prisoners participating in the work activities answer simple questions such as: "Does this article talk about a business acquisition?". The same question is repeated several times for different people, which produces high-quality material for training Vainu's artificial intelligence. As a result, Vainu's company database will expand and its customers working on business sales are able to select their targets better.

The pilot currently includes two prisons, in which a total of 10 workstations have been set aside for the work at this point. The Criminal Sanctions Agency has been constantly developing prison work, focusing on the rehabilitative aspect of the work and on training prisoners in the skills needed in future working life. The new work concept is interesting especially in this respect.

"Artificial intelligence offers new opportunities – even in prisons. Machine learning can also be utilised in prisoner employment. The utilisation of technologies based on artificial intelligence changes the current idea about working life and the skills needed there. In the future, electronic services and operating environments allow working from the prison using a computer to teach artificial intelligence, for example, as in this pilot", says Special Counsellor Olli-Pekka Palonen, who supervises prisoners’ work in Turku Prison.

A learning environment for a crime-free life

Prison work plays an important role in helping prisoners to lead a crime-free life and become integrated with society. Development Manager Pauli Nieminen from the Criminal Sanctions Agency points out that all services, activities and rehabilitation arranged in prisons act as a path towards a crime-free life. Future prisons will also act as learning environments for leading a crime-free life.

"Right now we are seeking to introduce a learning element to work activities. In addition to participating in work, prisoners can complete degrees or their parts. A large number of new professions will be created on the labour market in the next few years. The intention is to train prisoners in fields where there will be shortage of workforce in the future. The cooperation to be launched with Vainu is one example of a new path to working life. The Criminal Sanctions Agency is highly interested in pursuing even broader cooperation with companies. If prisoners can directly enter working life after release from prison, the risk of committing crime will be substantially smaller", Nieminen says.

In addition to routine prison work, thought has been given to introduce work to which prisoners can be easily inducted and that can also be performed by prisoners with short sentences.

"This type of new work could also be of use in assessing the working ability and functional capacity of prisoners. The intention is to develop such assessments in work activities in prisons. By observing the fluency of different types of tasks, it is possible to obtain information on the capabilities of prisoners and possibly also on their problems", believes Special Adviser Satu Rahkila from the Central Administration Unit of the Criminal Sanctions Agency.

Further information:

Development Manager Pauli Nieminen, tel. +358 29 56 88504

Special Adviser Satu Rahkila, tel. +358 29 56 88595