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Covid-19 (Prisoners) (Family Contact)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 9th June 2020.

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Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

3. To ask the Scottish Government what arrangements are being made to enable prisoners to have contact with their families during the Covid-19 outbreak. (S5T-02245)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Before I answer the question, Presiding Officer, I can, if you wish, try reconnecting to a mobile phone hotspot for the remaining time to see whether that provides a better link, because I do not want to deny members any opportunity to ask questions. I will leave that—[Inaudible.]

To answer James Kelly’s question, I recognise the value and importance of family links and the impact that the restrictions, and the suspension of visits in particular, can have on those who are in custody and, importantly, on their families too. The Scottish Prison Service has been working hard to introduce a variety of different initiatives to enable contact between those in custody and their families during the Covid outbreak.

From next week, virtual visits will go live at a number of sites, which will allow those in custody and their families to have video calls. The scheme will then be rolled out across the prison estate in the coming weeks.

In addition—[Inaudible.]—phones are being introduced across the prison estate as another way of—[Inaudible.]—during this difficult time. Directions to the prison rules to allow that to happen are being laid before Parliament next week, with the roll-out of phones starting thereafter. The email-a-prisoner service is available in all prisons, as is prison voicemail, which allows those in custody to listen to messages from friends and family.

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you, Mr Yousaf. With Mr Kelly’s permission, I will end it there. We will try to reschedule the question if possible, but it is quite clear that the reception is getting worse rather than better. I could hear most of the answers, but I appreciate that the broadcasting system was not coping and most members could not hear. I hope that those who are listening on the channel will have heard it a bit better.

I thank the cabinet secretary very much—we will conclude topical questions on that point, although we might reschedule Mr Kelly’s question for another time.

Photo of Alex Cole-Hamilton Alex Cole-Hamilton Liberal Democrat

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. It is very important for members of Parliament to be able to scrutinise Scottish Government ministers in this way and, if we cannot hear the answers to some very important questions, that scrutiny falls on its face. I think that you already covered the matter in your intervention, Presiding Officer.

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you, Mr Cole-Hamilton.