In-cell Phones in UK Prisons 2

Some might want to read the previous text called “In-cell phones in UK Prisons” before or after for some true life experience.

The Daily Mail has never been an advocate of prison reform in the normal sense. This article is about the progressive introduction of in-cell telephones which should be welcomed by all, and not just by prison reformers. I will try to point out factual errors or misleading statements in this article and also comment on statements made by two ‘experts’ Tory MP Andrew Rosindell and David Green, a former Home Office adviser. I am concerned that some of the things they have said or implied have not been directly challenged. It is difficult to accept that the role of the media is to allow people to make unchallenged statements.

  1. Every prisoner is to be given a telephone in their cell in a £17million move to cut reoffending.

This paragraph says every prisoner when it should say every cell. There is only one telephone in multiple occupancy cells, which can be a major source of conflict, potentially violent and a breach of privacy.

The article, in general fails to point out that the installation of in-cell telephones allows staff to keep doors locked for longer and therefore helps the problem of understaffing or overcrowding. So, the justification is not purely ‘to cut reoffending’. At holidays periods, for example, it avoids prisoners being let out to call their families.

The other use of the phones is to allow prison functions to contact prisoners without having to physically be present in a cell. This is a tremendous saving of staff time.

2. All inmates, including killers and rapists, will be able to speak to friends and loved ones ‘in private’ any time, day or night.

The Mail feels the need to remind us that there are killers and rapists in prison but does not give numbers. It implies that a large proportion are of this sort, which is not only wrong but it is deliberately giving a false impression to the public at large. These false impressions influence bad policy at governmental level

Secondly this paragraph gives the false impression that in-cell telephones are, in some way, unable to be removed by staff. For example, my understanding is that in-cell phones are only a privilege in segregation units.

What is false is the availability – calls cannot be made before 0700 and after 2300 – and there are certain times during the day when the service is unavailable.

Again, we have the ‘privacy’ comment which is not true in many cases.

3. Tory MP Andrew Rosindell condemned the scheme, saying: ‘I thought the idea was to punish criminals and take away their freedom and creature comforts.

This highly objectionable remark needs qualification. As I have said above, there are good operational reasons to install in-call phones because of understaffing/overcrowding. This is not just about making the prisoners’ lot easier, it is also about allowing them to communicate with a specific list of people that are vetted by staff in order to stop the catastrophic situation where a prisoner loses contact with family and friends and then finds himself isolated upon release, more likely to re-offend or reliant upon the state. I would ask Rosindell if he is in favour of rehabilitation and how he sees it working.

4. Rosindell continues “Prison becomes less of a deterrent when the authorities do things like this. It’s time to think of the welfare of the victims.”

In what way does stopping inmates contacting their loved ones affect the welfare of the victims?

5. David Green, a former Home Office adviser…said ‘While there is some evidence of retaining family links leading to less reoffending, giving prisoners phones assumes that their family is a good influence. That’s not always the case. Sometimes they are a bad influence. Common sense says that there is a danger phone calls will be abused. They could be used to oversee continuing criminal activity or collaborate with others about keeping stolen goods or proceeds of crime hidden. If things go wrong witnesses could be intimidated or paid off. They could be used to settle scores or for retaliation. Also, a prison sentence has been meted out by the court so this could be seen as relaxing the punishment.’

So, he admits that contacts with family can lead to less reoffending but conveniently forgets that all calls are recorded, 5% are actually monitored, calls can only be made to a specific list of numbers and that a criminal is hardly likely to discuss criminal activity in those circumstances. His comments imply that he confuses vengeance with justice and merit no further commentary.

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