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More prisoners to get phones in cells under Government drive

The technology is already in place at 20 establishments and plans are under way to extend the scheme to another 20 over the next two years.

Thousands of prisoners will be able to make phone calls from their cells under a Government drive to improve rehabilitation and stem the flow of illegal mobiles.

Justice Secretary David Gauke will announce plans to invest £7 million on introducing in-cell telephones for more jails in England and Wales.

The technology is already in place at 20 establishments and plans are under way to extend the scheme to another 20 over the next two years.

Currently, most prisoners queue for public phones on the landings, which can be a trigger for violence or fuel demand for illicit mobile phones, the Ministry of Justice said.

Officials emphasised that in-cell phones are subject to strict security measures.

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Justice Secretary David Gauke is to announce plans for more prisoners to have phones in their cells (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

All calls are recorded, users can only call a small number of pre-approved numbers and active monitoring can be introduced if there is any suspicion the service is being abused for crime.

Prisoners will continue to pay to make calls, the MoJ added.

The move forms part of efforts to improve inmates’ ability to maintain ties with relatives after they are jailed, which is seen as a key factor in reducing the chances of returning to crime.

Last year, a report by Lord Farmer found that good family relationships are “indispensable” to the Government’s prison reform plans.

Supportive relationships are critical to achieving rehabilitation

In a speech, Mr Gauke will say: “Decency also extends to how we treat prisoners – fairly and consistently, with time out of their cells, activities, and the opportunity to maintain family relationships.

“As Lord Farmer made clear in his ground-breaking review last year, supportive relationships are critical to achieving rehabilitation.”

The announcement on in-cell phones forms part of a £30 million package to improve safety, security and decency across the prison estate following several years of surging levels of violence, self-harm and drug use.

In another step, every prisoner will be given a “risk rating” under plans to choke off the influence of criminal kingpins behind bars.

Inmates will be assessed according to their chances of taking part in violence, escapes, disturbances and gang activity.

The new digital tool – which is being rolled out across the estate following a pilot in 16 jails – compiles data from law enforcement databases and prison incident reports.

The MoJ said the intelligence will allow police and prison staff to better target their activity to prevent, disrupt and disable criminal networks, including moving prisoners when necessary.

As a result of the new approach, nine prisoners have already been moved and another three are awaiting transfer.

Authorities estimate there are around 6,500 prisoners with links to organised crime in England and Wales.

Mr Gauke will say: “We must make it clear to these gangs that criminality stops at the prison gate.

“We have already identified some of the worst offenders co-ordinating drug supply from the inside and moved them to other prisons to cut them off from their market.”

Mr Gauke will also:

– Commit £16 million to improve the fabric of prisons, targeting establishments with the most pressing maintenance issues;

– Reveal the Government is considering enhanced “drug-free wings” where prisoners can live in better conditions if they agree to undergo regular testing;

– Announce £6 million has been earmarked for safety measures including airport-style security scanners, improved searching techniques and phone-blocking technology;

– Confirm plans to give governors more power to set “incentives and earned privileges” schemes under which inmates are rewarded for good behaviour.

The speech comes a day before the Government’s record on prisons falls under further scrutiny with the publication of Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke’s annual report.

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