In-Cell Phones For Family Calls 'Could Help Cut Reoffending'

30 August 2017, 11:31 | Updated: 30 August 2017, 11:38

Prison cell block

Prisoners should be able to call family members from their cells to help cut reoffending, a think-tank has said.

Reform Scotland has proposed piloting landline phones in prison cells to help maintain contact between prisoners and their families.

The organisation said evidence suggests maintaining close family ties can help prevent reoffending, highlighting that some prisons in England and Wales already have in-cell phones.

Currently, contact can be limited to restricted-use telephone lines and emails that are printed out and delivered to prisoners with the mail.

The report also calls for a ban on prison sentences of six months or less in Scotland and an end to automatic early release for short sentences.

Reform Scotland research director Alison Payne said: "Prison exists for four key reasons - punishment, deterrence, public safety and rehabilitation.

"The fourth - rehabilitation - does not always receive the attention it deserves.

"However, rehabilitating prisoners and preventing reoffending is important not just for the prisoner, but also for his or her family and for society as a whole.

"If family contact helps to reduce reoffending, as well as helping those left outside, then it is something that needs to be encouraged.

"Reform Scotland believes that there should be some pilots looking at innovative ideas for increasing contact, such as having landline phones in prison cells.

"We challenge the Scottish Prison Service and the Scottish Government to be bold and innovative as we try to close the revolving door of reoffending."

Nancy Loucks, chief executive of Families Outside, the charity which works to support the families of prisoners, said: "Imprisonment fractures families.

"It separates people from the things most likely to prevent them from offending, such as housing, employment and social support, increasing the risk of family breakdown, relapse and homelessness.

"Community-based measures are designed to address the reasons behind someone's offending while maintaining their links to their communities - something short prison sentences simply cannot do."

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr said the measure would be a "a step too far and could jeopardise the other tenets of prison - punishment, deterrence and public safety".

The prison service said it had no plans to introduce in-cell telephones.

A spokeswoman said: "The Scottish Prison Service recognises the importance of maintaining family links with a family member during their time in custody and continues to look at ways in which we can support and enhance this".