Today the Prison Reform Trust published a letter it has received from the Secretary of State to Justice Rt Hon Robert Buckland MP QC regarding video calls in prison.

Responding to concerns raised by the Prison Reform Trust of the risk that video calls might become a substitute for face-to-face visits, the Secretary of State provides an assurance that “it is absolutely not the intention that video calling will be a substitute for face-to-face visits. Where face-to-face visits can safely be delivered and remain the preference, no prisoner should be asked to substitute that for a video call.”

Commenting, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Getting video call technology into prisons has been a welcome side-effect of the pandemic in prisons. There’s a long way to go still and we know the system doesn’t always work perfectly, but it’s a welcome first step towards realising the huge potential of modern technology to transform what can be achieved in prison. It’s crucial that ministers press on and seize the opportunity for radical change.

“Back in June, a remark from the Lord Chancellor implied that in some circumstances video calls might be offered as an alternative to a face to face visit. So we asked for clarification that that wouldn’t happen—video calls are a great addition, but they must never be considered a substitute for the opportunity to see someone face to face if that’s what people want. It’s taken a while, but we’re delighted that the Lord Chancellor has now given the assurance we sought.

“The next challenge is to make sure that video calls become a normal, universal and affordable part of how family ties are maintained.”