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Video calling technologies such as Skype should be made available to prison inmates in certain circumstances to keep in touch with families, a new review has suggested.

The study, conducted by Lord Farmer, has advised the government that such facilities should be seen as part of the effort to help cut re-offending rates, and concluded that good family relationships were “indispensable” in delivering the Government’s plans to reform the prisons estate

Video calling can help in special situations

Circumstances he felt that video calling may be appropriate for a small percentage of prisoners were for foreign prisoners, but also when UK-based families face times of disruption such as when teenagers are studying for exams, through illness, or when there is a new baby in the home.

During periods when it was difficult for family to make regular visits to a prison, the “virtual visits would keep up the contact in the meantime.”

However, the findings made it clear that Skype calls, or other social media interaction, should not be viewed as an alternative to face-to-face visits between those in prison and their families, but an option that would complement this in specific circumstances.

Inconsistencies in links to families

Lord Farmer was commissioned last year to examine the importance of strengthening family ties in relation to reoffending rates.

Whilst identifying some areas of good practice, one aspect to come under criticism was the inconsistencies of links to families for those serving prison sentences. It also found there was little consideration of family ties when prisoner locations were decided.
es in certain circumstances to keep in touch with families, a new review has suggested.

Keeping up with technology

A prison in Northern Ireland where prisoners have been allowed to Skype call their families was highlighted in the document.

Another aspect of the findings was to suggest that such a facility would enable prisoners to maintain pace with technological advances that would serve them well upon release. The concern was to ensure inmates did not become marooned in a “technological dark age.”

Relationships are important

Lord Farmer said his report was not intended to be “sentimental about prisoners’ families.”
However, he added: “I do want to hammer home a very simple principle of reform that needs to be a golden thread running through the prison system and the agencies that surround it. 

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it has begun the process of forming a strategy to that takes into account the recommendations of the Farmer review.
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