Inmates across Scotland to get mobile phones after prison visits suspended

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Inmates across Scotland are to be given access to mobile phones so they can keep in touch with their families.

The Scottish Government and Scottish Prison Service intend to introduce the devices, having suspended visits due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

It is hoped that the move will support the mental health and wellbeing of those in custody, while the Scottish Government says there will be restrictions on the phones.

Scottish justice secretary Humza 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.”

Restrictions on the devices include outgoing calls could be monitored and would only be possible to numbers already included in existing prisoner call lists.

The phones will not be text or internet-enabled or be able to receive incoming calls.

Work to introduce them is being prioritised but a number of security, technical and legal issues will need to be resolved before they are rolled out.

Teresa Medhurst, interim chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, 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 in our prisons.

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

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

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur MSP, who called for the innovation last month, added: “I am pleased that the prison service and justice secretary have agreed to the estate-wide rollout of new contact services.

“We know that enabling people to stay in touch with their loved ones helps reduce violence, self-harm and re-offending. It really can be a lifeline.”

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