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


  • Think tank has campaigned for a pilot for landline phones in cells
  • Change will help maintain support networks for prisoners

Following the Ministerial Statement on the Scottish Government’s Response to the Expert Review of Mental Health Services for Young People Entering and in Custody at HMP and YOI Polmont, Reform Scotland, the independent think tank, has congratulated the Scottish Government’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP on his announcement today that there will be a pilot of in-cell phones at YOI Polmont.

At present, Scottish prisoners can only access a telephone at certain times and often in communal settings. This is in contrast to the experience in England and Wales, where a number of prisons have landline phones in cells to allow prisoners to contact their family more frequently and in private.  Due to the success of the scheme in England and Wales, in December the UK Government announced plans to spend £10m rolling out installation of in-cell phones into more prisons.

The think tank has previously called on the Scottish Government to allow such a policy to be piloted in Scotland, believing that without it we minimize the chance of a seamless reintroduction to family life after the end of a short-term sentence.

Supplementing the Reform Scotland campaign, earlier this month, Scotland’s chief inspector of prisons Wendy Sinclair-Gieben recommended the introduction of phones in cells to Polmont Young Offenders’ Institution.

Commenting, Reform Scotland’s Research Director Alison Payne said:

“We had the wrong policy on this issue, and Humza Yousaf deserves great credit for putting us on a path to the right policy.

“The vast majority of people sent to prison last year served a sentence of less than three months.  Such a short sentence means that there is little or no opportunity to take part in rehabilitation or training programmes.  However, evidence shows that maintaining family links, where appropriate, can reduce reoffending.

“Evidence from elsewhere has shown that in-cell phones not only help contribute towards rehabilitation, but they have also had a positive impact on addressing prison safety and reducing self-harm.

“The Scottish Government’s announcement today  will help to reduce reoffending, reintroduce short-term prisoners into life and work, and keep family networks strong. The pilot is a good first step and we hope eventually landline phones in prison cells will be rolled out into other prisons in Scotland, just as they have in England and Wales.”



  1. Reform Scotland’s briefing paper, Calling Home for Christmas, published in 2018, can be read here .
  2. Reform Scotland’s report, Reforming Prison, published in 2017  where the think tank first called for in-cell phones, can be read here  
  3. Reform Scotland is an independent, non-party think tank that aims to set out a better way to deliver increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility. Further information is available at
  4. Media: Message Matters (Andy Maciver, [email protected], 07855 261 244)