Prisons’ illegal phone trade puts families in ‘huge danger’, says Director of Prison Reform Trust

Prisons’ illegal phone trade puts families in ‘huge danger’, says Director of Prison Reform Trust

Prisoners at HMP (Her Majesty's Prison) Pentonville walk through an atrium, in London.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Peter Dawson, the Director of the Prison Reform Trust has said the new scheme to give more prisoners in-cell phones will prevent prisoners’ families becoming involved in the illegal phone trade.

Mr Dawson told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham that the in-cell phones would not be able to receive phone calls, unlike an illegal mobile phone.

“At the moment they can only make calls out, and that is not true with mobiles. Families come under huge pressure to phone into mobiles that are held illegally in prison and that can be very difficult for them,” he added.

“It is families that pay for these illegal mobiles, it is not the prisoners inside. It is families that are often bullied into paying huge amounts of money to get illegal mobiles into prison.”

He said: “You take on immense debt if you want a mobile in prison. It is not a nice cheap contract.

“You are putting yourself and your family in huge danger if you get involved in the illegal mobile phone trade.”


'An hour a week' 

Justice Secretary David Gauke announced plans on Friday for a further £10 million roll-out of in-cell landline telephones to help prisoners “preserve relationships with their own loved ones”.

The Ministry of Justice said these plans will improve prisoners’ chances of rehabilitation as reoffending currently costs society £15 billion every year.

Mr Dawson said the new plans would not mean prisoners spend “the entire week on the phone”.

“The numbers that people can call have to be approved and that is exactly how it works at the moment,” he said.

“[Prisoners] have to pay for the calls so it is not them spending the entire week on the phone. Prison wages do not pay for more than an hour of a phone call a week.

“So all of that is as it is at the moment and it will remain the same. What is different is that if someone is in absolute crisis in the middle of the night, they can actually phone someone they love rather than asking a prison officer who is patrolling the entire wing.”