Remand in Custody: Coronavirus

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 2nd February 2021.

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Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he is taking to address the physical, emotional and psychological effects of custody during Stage 4 restrictions on unconvicted (a) young people, (b) adult women, and (c) adult men held on remand while awaiting trial.

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

Stage 4 regimes have been specifically designed on Public Health England (PHE) advice to reduce physical contact to a minimum, and for the primary objective of preserving life. This is important for the safety of both staff and residents. In bringing in these restrictions we are also prioritising activity to safeguard prisoner wellbeing and mental health.

The decision to remand someone is a matter for the independent judiciary. Defendants can be remanded where there is a risk they may abscond or commit offences if released on bail. We also recognise that the remand population is a group known to be at a higher risk of suicide and self-harm, and we have ensured that the processes to identify and support those people at risk have remained in place during these restrictions. We have taken a number of steps to mitigate the associated risks of the restrictions:

There has also been a focus on delivering essential activities, additional free phone credit and phone lines being opened for longer periods. The youth estate has been prioritised for in-room telephony installation and have used technology to facilitate virtual visits to enable all children and young people to stay in touch with their loved ones. Children and young people also have the opportunity to write and send letters, as well as having access to advocacy services and charities such as Barnardo’s and Childline.

For adult men and women, we have tailored guidance for supporting specific groups of people in prison whose wellbeing may be more impacted by Covid-19 measures put in place, including those in their early days of custody. We have put in place measures to enhance prisoners’ contact with family and friends, recognising that this is an important source of support and beneficial to wellbeing. This includes providing additional PIN credit and access to PIN phones, video calling and technology for compassionate use. To support wellbeing and address anxiety and boredom, we are providing distraction packs and in cell activities. We have also developed a range of self-help materials for residents, including a Wellbeing Plan created with input from mental health charity Mind. Throughout the pandemic, the Samaritans phone service has remained available and we are working with them to ensure that the Listener scheme continues to facilitate peer support between prisoners. We are supporting establishments to resume regular key work sessions in the adult male closed estate and have also put in place wellbeing checks across the women’s estate.

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