UK prison inmates to be given phones in their cells

The move is part of a £30 million package to improve safety and security in prisons 

Alina Polianskaya
Tuesday 10 July 2018 09:30 BST
Justice secretary David Gauke vowed to take ‘decisive action’ to drive up standards
Justice secretary David Gauke vowed to take ‘decisive action’ to drive up standards (Reuters)

Phones will be introduced to prison cells in England and Wales under a government initiative aimed at reducing violence and preventing illegal mobile phones being smuggled in.

It is hoped that the move will reduce levels of aggression seen when prisoners queue to use the phone in the public landings, under the current system.

Justice secretary David Gauke is set to unveil the £7 million scheme, which will allow thousands more prisoners to make calls from their cells, later on Tuesday.

Phone calls will still be paid for by prisoners, will be recorded and will only be allowed to be made to a select few phone numbers that have been pre-approved, according to the Ministry of Justice. If there are any suspicions of illicit activity, active monitoring can be introduced.

Twenty prisons already have the technology and 20 more will have it brought in over the next two years.

The move is part of wider reforms, which aim to raise levels of safety, security and decency across prisons across the country following several years of surging levels of violence, self-harm and drug use.

Maintaining family ties was seen as a key factor in reducing the chances of returning to crime.

A report by Lord Michael Farmer found that good family relationships are "indispensable" to the government's prison reform plans.

Lord Farmer, a member of the House of Lords, is the chair of the Farmer Review on Importance of Strengthening Prisoners' Family Ties to Prevent Reoffending and Intergenerational Crime

Mr Gauke said: “Decency also extends to how we treat prisoners – fairly and consistently, with time out of their cells, activities, and the opportunity to maintain family relationships.

"As Lord Farmer made clear in his ground-breaking review last year, supportive relationships are critical to achieving rehabilitation."

Other schemes being introduced under the new package, which costs a total of £30 million, include giving prisoners a risk-rating based on factors such as how likely they are to take part in violence, escapes, disturbances and gang activity.

The digital tool, which will be piloted in 16 institutions will draw on information from various databases and prison reports, helping police and prison staff disrupt criminal networks and relocate offenders if needed.

Mr Gauke added: "We have already identified some of the worst offenders co-ordinating drug supply from the inside and moved them to other prisons to cut them off from their market."

Nine prisoners have been moved so far under the system, with three more awaiting transfer.

Around 6,500 offenders are estimated to have links to organised crime in England and Wales.

£16 million of the funding is expected to be invested in improving conditions in some of the prisons with the worst issues.

The justice minister is also expected to say today: “Once in prison, offenders deserve to live in decent, safe and secure environments. In too many parts of our prison estate today cells are dirty with peeling paint and exposed wiring, shower and toilet facilities are filthy or broken, and food serving and eating areas do not meet modern food hygiene standards."

The plans will also include a system of "incentives and earned privileges" for those inmates who comply with rules and want to reform, with governors given more autonomy over how this will work best in their establishment.

Mr Gauke will announce the initiatives in a speech today, a day before an annual report by Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke's annual report scrutinising the prison system is published.

Press Association contributed to this report.

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