Video calls help prisoners maintain family contact during Covid-19 pandemic

Hollesley Bay

Video calls are helping prisoners maintain contact after social visits were suspended due to Covid-19

All prisoners across East Anglia are now able to make secure video calls to loved ones following the suspension of social visits during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said more than 90,000 video calls have been made from prisons and young offender institutions in the east, totalling 45,000 hours and connecting families in more than 100 countries. 

The MoJ said offenders with strong family ties are less likely to reoffend, which costs the taxpayer around £18billion per year, while 97% of prisoners feel video calls have a positive impact on their mental health.

Gary Newnes, governor at HMP Hollesley Bay, near Woodbridge, said the face-to-face video calls have supported inmates through "testing times". 

He said: "Being an open prison, so many of our men are able to maintain contact through release on temporary licence (ROTL), which has been necessarily suspended throughout the pandemic. This, combined with suspension of social visits, has hit many of our men very hard.

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“Therefore, the opportunity to provide face-to-face video visits has been well received and in my view has aided establishment stability and supported our men throughout very testing times.”

MORE: Suffolk prison praised for maintaining ethos during lockdown

A prisoner at Hollesley Bay said: “I saw my mum for the first time in months and it was very emotional being able to see her and hold a conversation with her after so long.

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“It is so different from just using the PIN phone and being able to see someone face-to-face is very special indeed.”

Lucy Frazer, prisons minister, said: “Video calls have been a huge success in our response to Covid-19 in the prison estate, with staff and offenders overwhelmingly positive about the impact of the technology.

“Prisoners have seen drastic changes to their daily routines to protect local health services and save lives. Part of that has been the loss of social visits – something we know plays a huge role in prisoners’ wellbeing and rehabilitation and these calls are allowing them to keep this vital family contact.”

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