Why UK prison inmates are getting phones in their cells

Move is part of new £30m package of measures aimed at curbing violence in jails


Thousands of prisoners will be able to make calls from their cells as part a government plan to reduce violence and stem the flow of illegal mobile phones in jails across England and Wales.

Justice Secretary David Gauke is today due to unveil a £30m package of measures aimed at improving safety, security and decency in jails.

Prison bosses say the in-cell phones, which will be subject to strict security measures, will end clashes between prisoners fighting over public phones and illicit handsets. “All calls, which will continue to be paid for by prisoners, will be recorded and they must be to phone numbers on an approved list,” reports the BBC.

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The scheme, already in place at 20 prisons, is to be extended to a further 20 over the next two years, at a cost of £7m.

The plan comes in response to a report by Tory peer Lord Farmer last year that found good family relationships is a key factor in reducing reoffending rates.

At an event this afternoon at the Centre for Social Justice, in London, Gauke is due to say: “Decency also extends to how we treat prisoners – fairly and consistently, with time out of their cells, activities, and the opportunity to maintain family relationships.

“As Lord Farmer made clear in his ground-breaking review last year, supportive relationships are critical to achieving rehabilitation.”

The Inspectorate of Prisons last year praised HMP Altcourse in Liverpool for installing phones in cells, noting that it was “bucking the trend” of rising violence.

John McLaughlin, director of the privately run Oakwood prison in Wolverhampton, which also allows calls from some of its cells, has welcomed the new initiative.

“Anything that enhances the contact between a prisoner and his family or loved ones is vital,” he said. “I’ve worked in prisons where telephony is available on the landings, there’s a queuing system, people can’t get the contact with their loved ones at the appropriate time of day.”

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