In a world where communication is considered a fundamental human right, it can be challenging for prisoners to stay in touch with their loved ones, and sometimes it can also make it difficult for them to access legal representation, educational opportunities and other resources. Prisoners have limitations when to communicating with the outside world through letters, phone calls and visits.
However, new technologies and open-mindedness are making it possible for inmates to communicate more easily and efficiently. As new technologies continue to develop, it is likely that the challenges of communication in correctional facilities will continue to be addressed. This will make it easier for prisoners to stay in touch with their loved ones and will also help to make the prison experience more humane.
Oliver Drews is the leader at the forefront of this revolution. This visionary CEO of Telio Group has embarked on a mission to transform the landscape of prison communication. With a passion for creating positive change and a strong belief in the power of communication, Drews has dedicated over two decades to the correctional system, driving advancements and innovation in the niche.
Telio Group, headquartered in Hamburg, is a trailblazing clean tech company that leverages proprietary technology to develop cutting-edge power conversion technologies and control system solutions. As the CEO of Telio Group, Drews is at the helm of a company that delivers communication solutions for ministries and prisons across 25 countries worldwide. With over 25 years of experience, Telio Group has grown exponentially from providing telecommunication services in German prisons to being a global leader, empowering inmates and transforming correctional institutions.
Drews stands as a beacon of leadership in the prison communication niche, driving meaningful advancements and transformation. With a vision for a more connected and humane correctional system, Drews has established Telio Group as a global leader, impacting the lives of inmates and society at large. With the company’s latest strategic acquisition, Synergy Inmate Phone Solutions, Telio is now poised to reshape the correctional landscape in North America. Synergy is a US provider of correctional services and solutions in Canada and the United States.
Through innovation, dedication and a commitment to social responsibility, he has shaped Telio Group into a driving force in the dynamic business arena, setting new standards for the future of prison communication.
Let’s discover how Drews is revolutionizing prison communication and driving positive change in the penal system.
Legacy of Achievement
Drews, a seasoned leader with an entrepreneurial spirit, began his professional journey with a banking apprenticeship, gaining valuable insights into the financial industry. He mentions, “Our journey began with a simple service: providing incarcerated persons with telecommunication services through secure hallway phone booths in selected German prisons.”
However, it was his serendipitous entry into the world of prison communication that sparked his passion for the penal system. Joining Telio Group as the CEO, he embarked on a remarkable journey to address the deep human need for communication and connection behind bars. The evolution into a global company with over 250 dedicated employees, proudly serving more than 650 facilities worldwide, empowering inmates and transforming the way correctional institutions operate.
Drews says, “I came to the penal system more or less by chance. The founders of Telio at the time were looking for someone with a commercial background to bring some structure into their business.” The source of inspiration for Drews’ venture into the prison communication industry was a unique combination of economic prospects and a deep understanding of the fundamental need for connection and communication among incarcerated individuals.
He shares, “I quickly became enamored by the opportunity to facilitate the deep human need for communication and connection behind the bars, which was still in its infancy in the early 2000s.” Recognizing the potential to impact rehabilitation positively, Drews’ vision of smart prisons was born.
There is no replacement for genuine connection with family and loved ones. Access to this is a key factor in creating a constructive environment for successful rehabilitation. By addressing this fundamental need, Telio became a catalyst for positive change within the penal system, fostering a sense of humanity in an otherwise bleak environment.
Nowadays, Drews has visited prisons all over the world (except Antarctica), which always reminds him that there is still a lot of work to do in different aspects of prison administration. For example ensuring that prisons operate efficiently and effectively (particularly as we emerge from the COVID reality), enabling the reduction of recidivism and contributing to humane environments for incarcerated persons, staff and stakeholders.
“In this landmark move spanning across the Atlantic during our 25th anniversary year fills me with immense satisfaction. Over the past 25 years, the Telio Team has diligently collaborated with jurisdictions to elevate prisoner rehabilitation efforts, fostering safer, more secure, and ultimately more productive environments for inmates, their families, and dedicated staff, both within and beyond penitentiary confines,” states Oliver, expressing his gratification.
Journeying Beyond Walls
Telio Group’s mission is to create future smart prisons that make a meaningful impact on inmates’ lives and the broader society. He says, “We try to incorporate progress and change enabled by a highly talented team of professionals.” Also adding, “We recognize the profound impact our work can have on the well-being and rehabilitation of individuals within the correctional system.”
The company envisions a world where digitalization and cutting-edge technologies enhance humane conditions in corrections, offering hope, opportunity and a chance at a better future for inmates.
Drews mentions, “We bring our services to areas in the world, where none exist today. That is why we started a pilot project in the largest prison of Namibia, Windhoek in 2019, where about 1.000 inmates are using hallway and in-cell telephony now.” Through Telio’s innovative and reliable offerings, it forges strong partnerships with the customers, ensuring customer needs are met with utmost professionalism and efficacy.
However, Drews’ commitment goes beyond that. Recognizing the urgent need to advocate for and support the often-neglected children of prisoners, Drews took the initiative to establish Connecting Hearts in 2022. This foundation aims to build a strong lobby and provide much-needed assistance to these vulnerable children. He states, “We are the sociably responsible and humane choice for digital services in the corrections sector.”
More than a mission, becoming a global market leader in inmate communication, technology and infrastructure for Telio was a journey of dedication and foresight. It all began with a simple yet fundamental approach: listening. From the very inception of the company, Telio prioritized understanding the needs of correctional facilities, their inmates and staff.
Rather than assuming the requirements and challenges faced within the correctional system, Telio chose to actively engage with its target audience. Through extensive research, direct interactions and an empathetic approach, the company sought to comprehend the unique circumstances and pain points present in correctional environments.
By carefully heeding the feedback and insights provided by facilities, inmates and staff, Telio was able to lay the groundwork for developing tailored solutions. The outcome of this meticulous approach was the creation of a highly advanced and comprehensive product portfolio.
In the realm of telephony, Telio’s solutions were designed to meet the specific requirements of correctional facilities. These solutions addressed security concerns, privacy regulations and the need for effective communication within the confines of correctional institutions. By providing secure and monitored communication channels, Telio not only enhanced safety but also improved the overall inmate experience.
Beyond telephony, Telio ventured into the realm of digital services and recognized the significance of enabling communication in various forms. From messaging to video visitation, the company implemented cutting-edge technologies that bridged the gap between inmates and their loved ones while adhering to strict security measures. Access to educational programs for example fosters self-sufficiency and the freedom of making choices within the surrounding of a correctional facility.
In essence, Telio’s journey to becoming a global market leader was anchored in its commitment to truly understand the needs of its clientele. By actively listening, the company honed its expertise in developing solutions that addressed the unique demands of correctional environments. This customer-centric approach not only fueled its growth but also solidified its position as an industry leader, offering innovative, reliable and secure products that played a vital role in transforming the landscape of inmate communication, technology and infrastructure.
Rising Like a Phoenix
Drews’ impact on the prison communication niche is evident through Telio Group’s innovative and reliable offerings, catering to over 300,000 inmates worldwide. By actively listening to stakeholders, including inmates and staff, Telio Group tailors solutions to address the unique requirements of each institution as a top priority. He says, “Whether it’s our staff or the inmates we serve, we believe that everyone deserves to have their voice heard. That’s why we approach our work as a partnership, valuing input from all stakeholders.”
Telio Group’s products and services are currently utilized by over 300,000 inmates across more than 650 facilities worldwide. Drews’ shares, “We understand that the requirements of each institution are unique and we strive to provide tailor-made solutions to meet their specific situations. The key to successful implementation lies in fostering continuous collaboration.”
His focus on patience and persistent collaboration has enabled Telio Group to expand its presence across various European countries, continually embracing technological advancements to create future-ready solutions. This has also enabled Drews in gaining valuable insights and recognizing the time-consuming nature of enabling communication in secure environments.
Perseverance is crucial in this process to anticipate and embrace potential technological advancements early on, integrating them into the strategy. He says, “The ongoing digital transformation presents both challenges and opportunities for us. While it will keep us engaged, it also allows us to develop truly exceptional and future-ready solutions that set us apart from the competition.”
Building Blocks of Progress
At the heart of Telio Group’s success lies its entrepreneurial spirit and calculated experimentation. He states, “We recognize that to stay ahead and deliver innovative solutions, we must foster a culture that encourages individuals to think creatively and explore new possibilities.”
Drews fosters a work culture that encourages creativity, open-mindedness and exploration of new possibilities as these principles enable uncovering of fresh ideas and drive advancements that make a meaningful and lasting impact in the industry.
He also says, “We actively seek out and attract talented individuals who embody these qualities, understanding that our collective success relies on their contributions.” By nurturing continuous learning, growth and innovation, Drews empowers his team members to challenge norms and push boundaries, contributing to the company’s meaningful impact in the industry.
The values and work culture at Telio Group are deeply rooted in the belief that progress is driven by individuals dedicated to their work, open-minded to new ideas and receptive to constructive feedback. Drews values critical thinkers who challenge established norms, fostering an environment of diverse viewpoints and constructive debate. The alignment of individual goals with a collective purpose drives progress at Telio Group, creating a powerful synergy to propel the company forward.
In its quest to advance innovation, Telio and Drews’ understand the importance of surrounding themselves with critical thinkers. Drews’ annotates, “We value individuals who can bring fresh perspectives to the table and challenge established norms.” By fostering an environment that encourages diverse viewpoints and constructive debate, pushing the boundaries of what is possible and driving meaningful change.
Drews’ states, “I believe that the best results are achieved when we align our individual goals with a collective purpose.”
Innovation thrives when there is a strong foundation of collaboration, curiosity and a willingness to step outside of comfort zones. He says, “I value team members who are not afraid to explore uncharted territories, challenge assumptions and take calculated risks.” By encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit and embracing calculated experimentation, uncovering new possibilities and uncovering innovative solutions.
Drews’ states, “At the Telio Group, we understand that our success hinges on our ability to attract and nurture individuals who embody these qualities. Together, we can create a culture of continuous learning, growth and innovation.”
Recognizing the significance of technology in shaping the future, Drews leverages cutting-edge innovations to enhance Telio Group’s communication solutions. In general, technology will continue to profoundly influence daily lives in numerous ways. Drews’ says one can expect further integration of smart devices and automation, simplifying and streamlining tasks. AI-powered virtual assistants will become even more prevalent, helping people with information, organization and entertainment.
Drews’ says, “At the Telio Group, we are developing user-friendly tools to streamline prison administration processes, aiming to improve the efficiency and speed of inmate requests and access to information.” Instead of relying on paper-based methods, the focus is on embracing hyper-automation by digitizing processes, incorporating robotic process automation (RPA) and leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) for decision support.
This approach speeds up the process and ensures more accurate decision-making aligned with policy guidelines. By enhancing the inmate experience and reducing the workload of correctional officers, these advancements promote value add contribution by staff and freeing up valuable time that today is taken up by administrative tasks in correctional facilities.
He also says, “We are also cognizant of the risks that these emerging technologies can have. Some of these include data integrity, bias and power and control. We are already looking to mitigate these risks by optimizing data quality, building knowledge and supporting awareness of these risks, collaborating on implementing sector governance, sharing insights and supporting centers of excellence.”
He explains, “It’s a balance. We want to ensure our solutions, including the use of emerging technology, promote safety and security as well as contribute to positive changes in our society.”
Drews advises budding entrepreneurs to have a vision that drives them forward and brings meaning to their work. In the Telio world, things have also been very turbulent at times. Here, Drews had to persevere and believe in what he was doing-helping inmates to stay in touch with their families and loved ones always with the goal of transforming prisons into better spaces and creating ‘Places for a second chance.’
A study published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour in 2017 found that employees who experience fun at work are more engaged in their tasks and exhibit higher levels of job satisfaction. Increased engagement is often associated with improved productivity and performance.
Emphasizing the importance of having fun in what they do, he encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to surround themselves with critical thinkers and foster a culture of continuous learning and growth.