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Prisons: Visits

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN HL2579, tabled on 13 March 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what guidance has been given to prison governors about visits from family and significant others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Answered on

27 March 2020

HMPPS recognises that families or significant relationships can play an important role in supporting prisoners to reduce their risk of reoffending following release. We have implemented a number of the recommendations from the 2017 Farmer Review and continue to publish updates on progress on these every six months.

Visits have been suspended after the Government took vital steps to limit travel and social interactions in order to limit the spread of the virus. In recognition of the importance of continued contact with family, however, the Government has moved swiftly to keep prisoners in touch with their family members by other means.

As part of new measures introduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ministers have approved the use of 900 locked SIM card handsets, allowing risk-assessed prisoners to speak to a small number of pre-authorised contacts.

Strict measures will ensure the phones are not misused with calls being time-limited and monitored closely. Additionally, handsets will include tamper-proof tape to prevent non-secure SIM cards being used.

As well as helping prisoners connect with their families, the phones will give prisoners access to support services such as the Samaritans, therefore reducing their risk of self-harm at a uniquely difficult time.

We are also urgently exploring options for the safe and secure use of video solutions in a range of establishments to facilitate family video calling. We expect that this approach will be available imminently to support the current situation, but beyond this, will consider how best to utilise the video-calling services to enable prisoners to maintain contact where they have historically not received regular visits.