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Could prisoners be given access to FaceTime or Skype in Norfolk jail?

HMP Wayland Prison. Picture: Ian Burt

HMP Wayland Prison. Picture: Ian Burt

A Norfolk jail is exploring the benefits of allowing prisoners to make video calls to their families on programs such as FaceTime or Skype.

However, a spokesman from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said no decisions would be made until it had assessed the benefits of the move – and ensured public safety would not be compromised.

HMP Wayland has already given prisoners access to in-cell phones to make it easier to stay in touch with relatives, albeit with “strict controls” around their use.

However when Mid Norfolk MP visited the jail in Griston, near Watton during December, he reported seeing video calls being tested as a way of helping families to stay in touch.

Mr Freeman was positive about the potential move, saying it could help to “normalise the prisoner” ahead of his eventual release.

Governor Paul Cawkwell speaking at the employer engagement event which was held at Wayland Prison. Picture: Ian BurtGovernor Paul Cawkwell speaking at the employer engagement event which was held at Wayland Prison. Picture: Ian Burt

He believes it could also save taxpayers money, as families travelling long distances to visit relatives in jail can claim expenses to help with the cost of travel, meals and overnight stay.

However a MoJ spokesman said: “HMP Wayland is not currently using Skype for prison visits but is exploring how new technologies can improve rehabilitation, at the same time as ensuring prison safety is not compromised. Family ties can play a crucial role in helping offenders turn away from a life of crime, and we have a dedicated strategy to strengthen these relationships in prison.”

Ministers are likely to want to see evidence of how it improves prisoners’ rehabilitation and therefore cuts crime before making a decision.

Inmates at HMP Wayland – which has nearly 1,000 prisoners, 100 of whom are serving life sentences – also have access to in-cell secure netbooks, where they are able to choose their meals and order items from the prison shop. The Inspectorate of Prisons described the move as an “example of good practice” when it visited the Category C men’s jail in June 2017.

HMP Wayland Prison. Picture: Ian BurtHMP Wayland Prison. Picture: Ian Burt

However there were, at the time of the inspection, no plans to put word processing software onto prisoners’ laptops, to enable them to work on their legal cases, and prisoners are not given access to the internet.

Strict controls are in place to ensure the technology is not abused, with phones restricted to dialling certain pre-approved telephone numbers.

Prisoners are not able to contact their victims.

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