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

Prisons – Calling home for Christmas

Landlines in cells could help prisoners maintain links with families and contribute towards rehabilitation

Reform Scotland, the independent think tank, has called for a pilot scheme in Scottish prisons to offer prisoners a landline phone in their cell.

At present, Scottish prisoners can only access a telephone at certain times and often in communal settings. In England, conversely, a number of prisons have landline phones in cells to allow prisoners to contact their family more frequently and in private.

In its paper Prisons – calling home for Christmas, in addition to the telephone pilot scheme, Reform Scotland calls for the prohibition of short-term prison sentences of less than six months, which have been shown to be ineffective at promoting rehabilitation.

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

“Almost two-thirds of all people sent to prison last year spent three months or less in jail. This is a short time, but it can cause havoc to individuals and their families and can lead to a loss of employment, income and housing as well as fracturing links with family and friends.

“Prisons are not just there to punish and protect the public. They also need to rehabilitate and to work with prisoners to help prevent reoffending, and offer training to help gain employment upon release.  However the Scottish Prison Service and Scottish Government have admitted that there is limited ability for people serving less than six months to engage with such rehabilitation programmes.

“Evidence suggests that maintaining close family ties can help prevent reoffending. However, due to distance or circumstance some family members will be unable to see or speak to their loved one as often as they would like, if at all.   We know that the vast majority of offenders will be released from prison after a very short sentence and it is vital that those support networks are maintained.

“Allowing prisoners to have more regular contact to friends and family, as they do in England and Wales, can benefit not just the inmate, but their family as well.

“Tomorrow is Christmas Day. In England, many prisoners will be able to call home from their cell, speaking to their children about what Santa has brought them and maintaining a relationship for when they are released.
“In Scotland, they will not be calling home for Christmas.”