Phones in cells in the wake of prison sui­cides

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRIS MAR­SHALL

Phones will be in­stalled in cells under a se­ries of mea­sures to im­prove con­di­tions for young peo­ple in cus­tody un­veiled by Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Humza Yousaf yes­ter­day.

The move comes in the wake of a re­view by HM In­spec­torate of Pris­ons for Scot­land that high­lighted failings at Pol­mont Young Of­fend­ers’ In­sti­tu­tion fol­low­ing the sui­cides of Wil­liam Lind­say, 16, and Katie Al­lan, 21, last year.

Phones are to be in­stalled in cells and strip searches of under-18s scrapped as part of a se­ries of mea­sures to im­prove con­di­tions for young peo­ple in cus­tody.

Jus­tice sec­re­tary Humza Yousaf out­lined the plans in re­sponse to the pub­li­ca­tion of a re­view which iden­ti­fied sys­temic failings at Pol­mont Young Of­fend­ers’ In­sti­tu­tion fol­low­ing the sui­cides of Wil­liam Lind­say, 16, and Katie Al­lan, 21, last year.

Pub­lished last month, the HM In­spec­torate of Pris­ons for Scot­land (HMIPS) re­port high­lighted a “lack of proac­tive at­ten­tion” to the needs, risk and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of those on re­mand and in the early days of cus­tody.

Set­ting out the Scot­tish Government’s re­sponse at Holy­rood yes­ter­day, Mr Yousaf said: “In-cell phones have the po­ten­tial to con­trib­ute to pris­on­ers’ well­be­ing by mak­ing family con­tact sig­nif­i­cantly eas­ier.

“They also im­prove ac­cess to na­tional helpline ser­vices, and tech­nol­ogy can of­fer the po­ten­tial to de­velop tele­health ser­vices and other sup­ports for well­be­ing in pris­ons.”

Mr Yousaf said there would be a “re­newed com­mit­ment” to find­ing al­ter­na­tives to re­mand for young peo­ple, while the rou­tine body search­ing of under-18s would stop.

He said work was be­ing un­der­taken to re­duce the length of time it takes to hold a Fa­tal Ac­ci­dent In­quiry fol­low­ing the death of a young per­son in cus­tody. Aamer An­war, so­lic­i­tor for the fam­i­lies of Wil­liam and Katie, said: “No-one heard Katie or Wil­liam’s cries for help – we hope the pi­lot­ing of in-cell phones will mean that lives are saved.

“The jus­tice sec­re­tary de­scribed the men­tal health re­view as sub­stan­tial, but as the last decade has shown, hun­dreds of rec­om­men­da­tions have been re­peat­edly ig­nored and the Scot­tish Prison Ser­vice (SPS) has proved in­ca­pable of re­form­ing it­self.

“Had the SPS acted then they might have saved the lives of Katie Al­lan, Wil­liam Lind­say and so many oth­ers.”

Wendy Sin­clair-gieben, the chief in­spec­tor of pris­ons, last month told MSPS that al­low­ing in­mates to make calls to a se­lect num­ber of friends and family mem­bers had been shown to re­duce vi­o­lence and self-harm behind bars.

She said the phones would only be used to dial pre-agreed num­bers and that calls could be screened by prison staff.

COM­MENT “No-one heard Katie or Wil­liam’s cries for help – we hope that the pi­lot­ing of in-cell phones will mean that lives are saved” AAMER AN­WAR

0 Sys­temic failings at Pol­mont Young Of­fend­ers’ In­sti­tu­tion were dis­cov­ered fol­low­ing the sui­cides of Wil­liam Lind­say, top right, and Katie Al­lan, last year

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