Prisoners to be allowed limited access to mobile phones

The move follows the suspension of family visits to prisons as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Phones: Security restrictions will be in place. Pixabay
Phones: Security restrictions will be in place.

Mobile phones will be provided on a limited basis for prisoners in Scotland to keep in touch with their families.

The move comes after prison visits were suspended as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

There will be security restrictions on these phones, as with the current prison landline system.

The mobiles would not be text or internet-enabled or able to receive incoming calls.

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Outgoing calls could be monitored and would only be possible to numbers already included in existing prisoner call lists.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) aims to roll out mobile phones in prisons shortly although a number of security, technical, and legal issues will need to be resolved first.

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said the action, along with other measures, will help “support the mental health and wellbeing of those in custody” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The SPS has already provided additional phone credit to prisoners, suspended all TV rental fees and expanded in-cell entertainment options.

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It is also working with partners to support the families of prisoners affected by the Covid-19 restrictions.

Yousaf said: “It is important that prisoners and their families are supported while the current prison visit restrictions are in place.

“Providing a mobile phone for prisoners to contact their families, along with a range of other actions we are taking, will help support the mental health and wellbeing of those in custody.

“We will make sure that the use of mobile phones in prisons is done in a way which is practical and safe – for those in custody, their families, and those in the wider community.

“The phones will be provided as soon as possible once we have resolved some outstanding issues and established the robust systems necessary to roll out and manage this new communications approach across the prison estate.”

SPS interim chief executive Teresa Medhurst said: “We have had to make difficult decisions in the last few weeks in order to prevent the spread of the virus and protect those living and working our prisons.

“These decisions have undoubtedly impacted on those in custody and their families.

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“The provision of phones for those in custody is a crucial way in which can help support and maintain family contact during this time of uncertainty.

“Social distancing and the need to stay indoors means that everyone is turning to technology as means of maintaining vital contact and the provision of these restricted phones allow that to happen for those in our care.”