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Thousands more prisoners to get phones in cells in drive to tackle violence

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Thousands more prisoners will get telephones in their cells under government plans to tackle violence and re-offending.

Fifty prisons across England and Wales will have the private phones installed by March 2020, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

The government hopes the scheme will boost rehabilitation by helping inmates maintain family ties, tackle the flow of illegal mobiles and reduce tension on wings.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “In-cell telephones provide a crucial means of allowing prisoners to build and maintain family relationships, something we know is fundamental to their rehabilitation.

Justice Secretary David Gauke arrives in Downing Street
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David Gauke says in-cell phones help inmates maintain family relationships

“Introducing them to more prisons is a recognition of the contribution I believe in-cell telephones make to turning prisons into places of decency where offenders have a real chance to transform their lives.”

Currently, in-cell phones are installed in 20 prisons in England and Wales, with ministers announcing in July that the scheme would be extended to another 20 locations.

Under a further £10m roll-out, the number of prisons with phones in cells will rise to 50 by March 2020.

The MoJ told Sky News there was “no commitment” to extend the scheme further despite reports it will be introduced to all 118 prisons in England.

Authorities have identified the illegal use of mobiles as one of the most significant threats faced by jails, while tension can arise in prisons from inmates queuing to use communal phones.

In the 12 months to March, there were 10,643 incidents where mobile phones were found in prisons – a 15% increase compared with the previous year.

Other measures taken to stop handsets getting into prisons include the introduction of body scanners and improved searching techniques.

In-cell phones, which allow inmates to make calls in private at a time which fits with their families’ schedules, form part of the government’s attempts to drive down re-offending, which is estimated to cost society £15bn a year.

The MoJ said phones also provide easier access to support services such as the Samaritans, therefore reducing the risk of self-harm.

All calls on in-cell phones are recorded and can only be made to a small number of pre-approved numbers.

In the event that they are suspected of being used for criminal activity, calls can be monitored, and governors have the power to remove phones from those who have misused them.

Prisoners will continue to pay to make calls on in-cell phones.

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