Secure video calls help all prisoners maintain essential family ties during pandemic

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) yesterday, 18 January 2021, published an article explaining the roll out of video calling facilities to all prisons across England and Wales in just over 6 months.

This is an excellent step in the right direction as we see prisoners able to virtually talk to their friends and family and maintain those essential family ties. It was widely reported that, during the first national COVID-19 lockdown and due to social distancing measures, prisoners were unable to have visitors. Due to this, prisoners struggled to stay in touch with friends and families. It is really positive to see secure video calls are now running in all public and private prisons, alongside young offender institutions across England and Wales – an essential part of offender rehabilitation.

MoJ reported that “ offenders with strong family ties are less likely to reoffend, which costs the taxpayer around £18 billion per year, while 97% of prisoners say that video calls have a positive impact on their mental health.

Prisons Minister Lucy Frazer QC MP said:

“Video calls have been a huge success in our response to COVID-19 in the prison estate, with staff and offenders overwhelmingly positive about the impact of the technology”.

“Prisoners have seen drastic changes to their daily routines to save lives and to protect local health services. Part of that has been the loss of social visits – something we know plays a huge role in prisoners’ wellbeing and rehabilitation and these calls are allowing them to keep this vital family contact”.

The video calls take place on secure laptops in a designated area in each prison. Safeguards are in place to prevent misuse with all participants checked in advance, calls are monitored by prison staff and restrictions have been built into the software to ensure safe use.

Graham Barrett, Governor at HMP Wandsworth said:

“Video calls have been an incredibly positive step forward in what has been a very difficult time. It has revolutionised the way that people can communicate with loved ones and having such a user- friendly service has ensured that the men in our care can keep in touch with family and friends all over the world”.

The new technology builds on the 2017 Lord Farmer review which found that close bonds between prisoners and family members can significantly reduce their risk of reoffending.

To view the article in full, please click here.

techUK has launched a ‘Digital Justice’ working group aiming to drive digital transformation across the criminal justice system. If you are interested in hearing more about this work, please get in touch with Georgie using the details below.

Georgina Henley

Georgina Henley

Programme Manager, Justice and Emergency Services, techUK

Georgie joined techUK as the Justice and Emergency Services Programme Manager in March 2020.

Georgie is dedicated to representing suppliers by creating a voice for those who are selling into blue lights and the justice system, but also by helping them in navigating this market. Georgie is committed to creating a platform for collaboration, from engaging with industry and stakeholders to understand the latest innovations, to the role tech can play in responding to a range of issues our justice and emergency services are facing 

Prior to joining techUK, Georgie managed a Business Crime Reduction Partnership (BCRP) in Westminster. She worked closely with the Metropolitan Police and London borough councils to prevent and reduce the impact of crime on the business community. Her work ranged from the impact of low-level street crime and anti-social behaviour on the borough, to critical incidents and violent crime.

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