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Amendment 1

Part of Coronavirus Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Labour 12:30 pm, 25th March 2020

My Lords, I too am very keen to support these amendments, particularly Amendment 1. Any form of monitoring has to be valued. It is important that we keep on top of those who might be suffering, particularly the most vulnerable. A new word in our dictionary is “intersectionality”. The situation is most problematic where people have multiple disadvantages and I want to mention a number of them.

I am particularly concerned about the healthcare that might be available in our prisons. I am concerned for staff and prisoners. Only this morning it was announced that a number of people in our prison system have the virus and are becoming ill. In many prisons they are being kept in isolation because of overcrowding. That means that there will be mental health issues, which many of our prisoners already have. Therefore, I strongly advise making mobile phones available to everyone in their cells, so that they can make contact with their relatives and have the opportunity to speak and get support.

I am also very keen that we think about releasing large numbers of prisoners. Those awaiting trial should be allowed to have bail and, if necessary, have ankle bracelets fitted. We should certainly let out the pregnant women in prison referred to this morning. We should also think about elderly prisoners—those over the age of 65—as well as those with underlying health issues.

This is a population invisible to us. Therefore, I ask that, in monitoring, we take account of that too. We have to find ways of making sure that our prisons do not erupt into a source of serious disease and serious unrest, as that makes for a double punishment.