Prisoners' calls to Samaritans were monitored

Chris Grayling revealed last month that inmates’ calls to MPs had been listened to

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Confidential telephone calls between prisoners and the suicide-prevention charity, the Samaritans, have been recorded and listened to, while their communications with MPs are also still being monitored at five prisons, inspectors have found. The Samaritans’ number, a globally allowed number that should not be monitored, was recorded and played back in a prison run by the private contractor Serco.

In addition, staff were not always aware that they should not listen to calls to MPs and Samaritans, and new guidance had not filtered down to all relevant employees, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) said in a report. HMIP made the Samaritans discovery while examining the recording and monitoring of phone calls from inmates to MPs, first revealed by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling last month, who asked for the investigation to be made.

Initial steps taken by the National Offender Management Service to prevent prisoners’ phone calls to MPs from being listened to or recorded had not been wholly effective, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Fiona Malcolm, Executive Director of Operations at Samaritans said: "We are very concerned to learn that one call to Samaritans in a SERCO prison was listened to as a result of human error. Samaritans takes its commitment to confidentiality for callers extremely seriously, and we are working closely with the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to ensure that the Prison Service Instructions PSI49/2011, which clearly state that calls to Samaritans must not be recorded or monitored, are fully understood and adhered to."