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Video-link 'virtual visit' scheme for prisoners is welcomed

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Assurance: Naomi Long

Assurance: Naomi Long

Assurance: Naomi Long

Inmates being held in prisons across Northern Ireland will get to see family members during the coronavirus pandemic thanks to a "virtual visit" scheme.

Video-link facilities have been introduced at Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank Wood prisons, where visits have been suspended due to the lockdown.

A virtual visit, lasting up to 20 minutes, can be booked by a family member using a personal computer, tablet or smartphone.

And through the secure video-link, prisoners and their families are able to see and speak with each other.

All virtual visits are supervised and any behaviour, language or actions which are deemed inappropriate will see the virtual visit terminated.

The initiative has been welcomed by Justice Minister Naomi Long, who said it was important prisoners maintain contact with loved ones at this difficult time.

"We absolutely recognise the importance of family contact for those within our care and their families.

"The use of safe and secure video-links in each of our establishments now facilitates family video calling at a time which can be worrying for all of us," she said.

"The last few weeks have clearly been out of the norm for us all.

"Covid-19 has made us enter a place of uncertainty, which is never comfortable for anyone.

"However, at a time of forced distancing, I want to assure the families of those in the care of the Northern Ireland Prison Service that we are all in this together."

Details on how to book a virtual visit can be found at www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/ visiting-someone-prison

Belfast Telegraph