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‘Prisoners could be given personal phones in cells’
September 11, 2018
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LONDON: Prisoners could be given personal telephones in their cells, the Justice Secretary has said.

David Gauke argues having access to a landline would improve behaviour by helping inmates keep in touch with friends and family.

The handsets would be programmed to only call pre-approved numbers, and would need to be paid for by prisoners themselves. Trials of in-cell phones have already been held in 20 jails and it was announced in July that a further 20 prisons would have them installed in the next two years as part of a £7m scheme.

But, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Gauke said he wanted the project to be rolled out across the country.

He said the trials had suggested such access could help reduce drugs and illicit mobile use, decrease friction over communal landing phones, and help offenders get organised in the run-up to release and thereby bring down reoffending rates.

“All the evidence is pointing towards in-cell telephony helping, so its wider use, I think, makes a lot of sense,” he said. “The message that I hear time and time again from prison governors and prison officers is that can be a real game-changer.” He also pointed out how a similar scheme in Germany has cut problems in its jail.

Responding to the proposed policy, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said he welcomed the idea.

He told The Independent: “More legitimate phones means less self-harm, fewer drugs and better resettlement.

“It is a crucial part of a balanced strategy to restore stability and purpose to a failing prison system. He deserves full financial and political support to see it through.” Yet, the proposal has inevitably drawn criticism too with many conservative commentators suggesting that giving prisoners such access to the outside world contradicts the punishment aspect of a prison sentence.

“He could have added in colour TVs & holidays abroad,” tweeted the barrister Jon Holbrook. “The elite don’t understand that prison is about punishment & retribution, without which the public loses faith in penal policy.” Women in prison in England and Wales are often victims of much more serious offences than the ones they have been convicted of, a charity has warned.

A report published today shows 57 per cent of female inmates have been victims of domestic violence, while 53 per cent have experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child.

The Independent

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