Phones in cells in the wake of prison suicides
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