The Scottish Prison Service has spent a total of £3.2m on mobile phones for prisoners, according to new figures.
A scheme enabling inmates to access mobile phones was introduced at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in response to the suspension of visits.
However, figures published by Audit Scotland indicate the scheme has cost taxpayers around £500,000 more than had been anticipated.
There have previously been calls for the devices to be withdrawn permanently after it emerged that the supposedly ‘un-hackable’ devices were being used to buy drugs and to organise other crimes.
Last month, a Freedom of Information request indicated that nearly 2000 of the devices were confiscated due to rule breaches.
Scottish Conservative community safety spokesman Russell Findlay insisted that a “telecom network” should not be provided to organised crime gangs by the state.
“The cost of the SNP’s prison phones was already substantial, continues to rise, and we don’t know how much it will end up costing,” he said.
“Not only are they a big cost to taxpayers, but some of these phones haven been used to facilitate drug dealing from prison cells and to threaten people in the community.
“The state should not be providing a telecom network to organised crime gangs.
“Presumably with so many of these phones now hacked or even damaged through wear and tear, there will already be discussions about what happens next.”
Findlay urged ministers to withdraw the phones in favour of a “more secure” alternative.
He said: “We simply cannot afford to make the same mistake with another rushed rollout of hackable handsets.
“We know the safe alternative is hard-wired communications which allow prisoners contact with families but can’t be compromised in the same way as mobiles.
“SNP ministers need to realise the serious flaws with this scheme, withdraw these phones and introduce a more secure, sensible and cheaper alternative.”
The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.
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