Inmates should have phones in cells - prison chief
PRISONERS should have phones in their cells so they can keep in closer contact with their families, the head of the service in Scotland has said.
Colin McConnell also ruled out a blanket curfew on watching TV at night, suggesting that watching shows like Coronation Street gave inmates something to talk about.
The chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service told the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee that treating people with respect was key to reducing the likelihood of them reoffending after release.
However, he was accused of trying to make prisons a “home from home” for offenders, and thinking of their benefits before victims.
Asked by Graeme Pearson MSP if he would endorse extending TV curfews nationwide, so prisoners would be more likely to sleep and wake up fresh for rehabilitation and education programmes, he suggested that he would rather make their lives easier, instead of harder.
Mr McConnell said: “I would have telephones in cells as well.
“That may stick in the craw of the public and some members sitting around the table.
“But you get people to behave normally if you treat them normally.”
He insisted TV brings benefits to prisoners.
“It’s a window on the world,” he said,
“It gives them an eye on what’s going on.
“If it stops people thinking horrible thoughts of themselves or others, and encourages discourse about Coronation Street or the news, or whatever, then lots of benefits come from that.”
He added: “Whether there should be a curfew, I think there are pros and cons. I would rather treat people with respect and say use it safely.”
All phone calls from prisons are recorded in case they are used to try and commit crimes.
Prisoners are only allowed to call pre-agreed numbers, and people receiving calls hear a recorded message first, asking them if they would like to take the call of hang up.
While the SPS has stressed it has no immediate plans to introduce phones in cells, nor an estimated cost of such a roll out, Mr McConnell said they could be a force for good by providing regular contact with their families on the outside.
“One thing that helps is family contact, and anything we can do to maintain that family contact is a good thing,” he said.
However, the suggestion has been widely criticised.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “It sounds to me like Mr McConnell wants to turn prisons into more of a home-from-home than they already are.
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