Secure video calls are now running in all prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs) in the North West helping to maintain vital family ties and boost rehabilitation during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In just over six months, over 90,000 video calls have been made totalling 45,000 hours and connecting families in more than 100 countries, while social visits were suspended to save lives and protect the NHS.

The secure video calls are allowing prisoners to see their toddlers take their first steps, say goodbye to a terminally-ill loved one and helping those struggling with their mental health.

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 protect local health services and save lives. 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.

Rob Knight Governor at HMP Manchester said:

“As a prison that holds long-term men from all over the country, having face-to-face video calls is a facility that will not just be useful during the pandemic but will remain as a long-term essential link for families that live a significant distance from the prison.

“Keeping our prisoners in close contact with their family and ensuring that good relationships are maintained is a key element to reducing future offending, and using this new technology adds another platform to support this.”

Prisoner at HMP Wymott: “Having video calls really helps with keeping in contact with my son and family on the outside. They really let your family know you are safe during this uncertain time”

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.

Plans are being implemented for the long-term. In the meantime, video calls remain free of charge to prisoners and their loved-ones while social visits are restricted.


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