Prisoners: Telephones

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 27th October 2020.

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Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effect of increased PIN credit provided to prisoners during the covid-19 outbreak on (a) strength of family ties, (b) levels of mental health and wellbeing and (c) levels of risk of outbreaks in prisons.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what estimates he has made of the effect of increased (a) PIN credit and (b) access to in-cell telephony provided to prisoners during the covid-19 outbreak on the number of calls made to (a) family members, (b) support workers and (c) others in the community.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what plans the Government has for the (a) provision of PIN credit and (b) cost of making calls in prisons during the next six months of the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

We fully recognise the importance of family contact for those in custody both in terms of supporting wellbeing and reducing the risk of reoffending. This is why we introduced a range of measures to minimise the impacts of the suspension of visits in March. This included introducing almost 1,300 secure mobile PIN phone handsets which are being used to contact family and friends as well as a range of support lines. We also provided additional pin credit for calls, bolstered support for the Prisoner’s Families Helpline and introduced secure video calls which are currently operating in over 100 prisons across England and Wales.

Since 2 April around 455,000 calls have been made using these secure mobile phones, meaning that there has been an average daily amount of just below 4,000 calls.

Prisoners and those in the youth estate can call anyone on their approved PIN phone lists which are not restricted to family or friends. Quantitative assessments have not been carried out in relation to calls made to different groups of contacts. However, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Annual Report 2019–20 noted that 90% of prisoners they surveyed said they were able to use the telephone every day, and that an increasing number of prisons had installed in-cell telephones.

We have reintroduced face-to-face visits in line with the National Framework for Prison Regimes and Services with prisons commencing when it was safe to do so in an adapted manner. However, we will continue to provide additional support to enable prisoners to maintain contact and support where prison regimes are restricted and will keep this under regular review.

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