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The real value of assisted prison visits scheme

Further to your article on the cost of assisted prison visits (News, July 21), I would like to explain the reason why such spending is so important.

Your figures in fact demonstrate that spending has reduced by 39% over the last three years. At just £29,682, that's only 0.02% of the overall Prison Service budget.

The scheme is restricted to those who are entitled to particular benefits; doesn't cover the cost of taxis; pays only 26p per mile for car usage and covers overnight accommodation only for visits in England, Scotland or Wales.

We shouldn't confuse the cost of assisted visits with their value. If people can keep in touch with their families while in prison, it's more likely they will settle back into the community after release, meaning they won't have the same mental health problems, or be as likely to re-offend.

But it's also a right, under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides 'the right to have direct and frequent contact with parents from whom the child is separated' and stipulates that 'in all actions ... the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration'.

As an average of 34% of people in prison in 2009/10 were only on remand, it's not justifiable to punish innocent children and families less well-off by removing their ability to visit loved ones in prison.

OLWEN LYNER

Chief executive, NIACRO

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