PRISONERS in Edinburgh's Saughton Jail will soon be able to film themselves reading bedtime stories to send home to their children.
The pilot scheme, called Storybook Dads, was unveiled yesterday as the ribbon was cut on a new 18,000 refurbished library in the prison.
It will see inmate fathers being recorded and a DVD being sent home so that they can communicate and bond with their offspring. If successful the scheme could be rolled out across the country.
The refurbishment has also seen the library kitted out with modern equipment such as laptops as well as a larger range of books than ever before.
Prison Governor Nigel Ironside said: "It is about increasing that bond with their kids that ties in with our family strategy.
"We asked the inmates what they wanted and we worked with that. While some would criticise the modern equipment that they have, the reality is that these prisoners are part of the community and they will be going back out there.
"It is in everybody's interest for prisoners to reform and we strongly believe reading and a greater access to learning will allow them to do this."
Mr Ironside added that there were plans to become even more family friendly.
He said: "At the moment only inmates can use the library facilities but we're looking at the possibility of allowing partners and children in the library."
For the first time a trained librarian, Kate King, will work in the prison to ensure inmates use the new the library effectively.
She said: "The policy is an excellent step forward as it's not the children who should be serving the sentence. They should have the opportunity to spend time with their fathers – or, even better, learn together as a family."
Prisoner Michael White, 25, who is serving a sentence for assault, praised the initiative.
"Everybody misses their families so this offers us a unique opportunity," he said.
White, who has spent his time gaining numerous qualifications in maths, IT and business, also said it will further his learning.
"Before, the library was bland and there was a limited number of books. You would be lucky if 30 people visited in a week. Now that number has trebled."
Another inmate added: "Before, I wasn't interested in reading but now I'm coming for books all the time."
Prison unit manager Barry Fowler believes the new library could even help to lower Edinburgh's crime rate in the long run.
"We hope the decent surroundings and facilities will get prisoners thinking differently, which in turn could curb re-offending," he said.
TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF
INMATES were allowed to put forward suggestions for books in the new library.
Saughton is the first prison library in Scotland to consult prisoners over which books to offer.
Among the top choices were:
• A History of Scotland
• Poetry books
• Bodybuilding and fitness manuals
• Guitar instruction books
• A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
• Books by Ian Rankin
• Books by Irvine Welsh