Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank


  • Reform Scotland has been campaigning for landlines in prison cells for six years
  • Research Director says plan will help hold support networks together 

Reform Scotland, a public policy institute which works to promote increased economic prosperity, opportunity for all, and more effective public services, has today welcomed the Scottish Prison Service (SPS)’s announcement that it will install landline telephones in prison cells.

Until a recent Scottish Government pilot scheme, Scottish prisoners were only able to access a telephone at certain times and often in communal settings. Following on from the pilot scheme, Justice Secretary Angela Constance has today said this “will help people in custody maintain contact with friends and family, which we know is crucial to their rehabilitative journey.”

In England and Wales, a number of prisons have landline phones in cells to allow prisoners to contact their family more frequently and in private.

Reform Scotland wrote its first report calling for telephones in cells in 2017, drawing on evidence from policies implemented in England and Wales and arguing that the change would assist rehabilitation and reduce reoffending after the prisoner is integrated back into their community and society.

“Prison exists for four key reasons – punishment, deterrence, public safety and rehabilitation. The fourth – rehabilitation – does not always receive the attention it deserves. However, rehabilitating prisoners and preventing re-offending is important not just for the prisoner, but also for his or her family and for society as a whole.

“We have campaigned for this move for six years, and naturally we are delighted that it will now happen. The vast majority of people in prison are serving short sentences. Enabling individuals, where appropriate, to maintain contact with their support networks can help with rehabilitation and therefore reduce reoffending.

“Short-term prison sentences can disproportionately disrupt the lives of the prisoner and their loved ones, and it is critical that the bonds that will hold them together on their release are not completely broken during their custodial sentence.

“The simple ability to speak to loved ones at will, and in private, cannot be underestimated.”

Alison Payne, Research Director, Reform Scotland


  1. Reform Scotland’s 2017 paper, Reforming Prison, can be read here, and its subsequent paper Calling Home for Christmas, published in 2018, can be read here.
  2. Reform Scotland, a charity registered in Scotland, is a public policy institute which works to promote increased economic prosperity, opportunity for all, and more effective public services. Reform Scotland is independent of political parties and any other organisations. It is funded by donations from private individuals, charitable trusts and corporate organisations. Its Director is Chris Deerin and Alison Payne is the Research Director. Both work closely with the Trustee Board, chaired by Lord McConnell, which meets regularly to review the research and policy programme.