Comment from Families Outside to media reports that one third of mobile phones issued in HMP Barlinnie have been tampered with
On 13th September, ITV News reported that since August 2020 when mobile phones were issued to more than 7,600 people held in Scottish prisons following the suspension of prison visits during the pandemic, 728 have been found to be operating with illegal SIM cards.
Families Outside is the only national charity that works solely on behalf of children and families in Scotland affected by imprisonment. In response to these reports, Families Outside’s Chief Executive Professor Nancy Loucks said:
“Phones were introduced in prison cells to support positive family ties during the pandemic, which reduce the likelihood of re-offending following release and to support the mental health of people in prison. As well as being able to call a pre-approved list of numbers for families in friends, people in prison can also call the Samaritans Helpline 24 hours a day. During the pandemic, our Helpline has seen a 51 per cent increase in calls from family members worried about the mental health of a loved one in prison.
“Drugs and illegal phones in Scotland’s prisons are a longstanding problem, long pre-dating the introduction of mobile phones when prison visits were suspended. Since their introduction, phones have been a lifeline for families worried sick about their loved ones in prison during the pandemic or unable to visit in person and have allowed parents in prison to read bedtime stories to their kids. It’s vital that the Scottish Prison Service gets on top of the situation in Barlinnie. The number of phones being tampered with is leading to a shortage of available phones for those who need them and long delays before phones are allocated to vulnerable people.”