Cameron Challenged on In-Cell TV Costs

in-cell-television

Hospital patients pay £41 extra a week compared to prisoners to watch television, a Conservative MP said as he urged David Cameron to justify the cost.

Conservative Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, said he was surprised to learn it cost his brother £6 a day to watch television in hospital in Doncaster while he understood prisoners paid £1 a week.

Mr Davies, addressing Mr Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions, said: “Can you justify why it costs hospital patients £42 a week to watch the television when it only costs prisoners £1 a week to watch the television?

“And if you can’t justify it, can you tell us what you are going to do about it?”

Mr Cameron replied: “As someone who has spent a lot of time in hospitals I absolutely share his frustrations.

“It was the last government that introduced these charges on televisions in hospital in the year 2000.

“Many an hour I have spent battling with that very complicated telephone and credit card system that you have to try and make work.

“These are, I’m afraid, devolved decisions local hospitals can now make but in terms of prisons the Lord Chancellor is doing something.

“He’s taking the unacceptable situation he inherited from the Labour Party where you could take out a Sky subscription when you’re in prison and say you can’t do that any more and making sure prisoners pay if they use the television.”

Mark Leech editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said the issue was not about prison in-cell TV but the extortionate costs of providing televisions in hospitals.

“Prisoners have always paid for the privilege of having access to an in-cell television, and its a privilege that can be removed if a prisoner’s behaviour warrants it.

“The government has introduced powers to make prisoners pay for any damage caused to televisions and no public sector prison has ever allowed access to satellite TV although some private sector prisons have done so.

“In-cell television has a positive effect on custodial behaviour, it keeps prisoners occupied when budget cuts mean other aspects of their regime have been obliterated – the real problem here is about the extortionate costs of NHS television provision and the Prime Minister should focus on reducing that rather than focusing on the soft target of prisoners.”

PRISONS TO ‘GET TOUGH’ SAYS GRAYLING

Prison should not be a place where convicts can fritter away hours on end watching satellite television in their cells, new Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said today.

Mr Grayling, who replaced Kenneth Clarke at the Ministry of Justice in the cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, said he also had no intention of cutting prisoner numbers.

He said he did not want inmates to enjoy prison, telling the Daily Mail the criminal justice system needed to be one in which the public could have confidence.

He said: “I’m bringing a fresh pair of eyes to the job. I’m very mindful of the need to have a criminal justice system in which people have confidence. I think they very often don’t have confidence in it.”

Mr Grayling added: “Prison is not meant to be a place that people enjoy being in. I don’t (want to) see prisoners in this country sitting in cells watching the Sunday afternoon match on Sky Sports.

“Am I planning to reduce the number of prison places? No I’m not. I do not want to set a target to reduce the prison population.

“What I do want to do is bring down the cost of prison. The whole philosophy I will bring to the department is getting more for less.”

Mr Clarke had been a thorn in the side of the Tory right, who saw him as a soft justice secretary, who oversaw the scrapping of indeterminate sentences for the most serious offenders, while at the same time apparently embarking on policies aimed at reducingprison numbers.

The decision by Prime Minister David Cameron to appoint Mr Grayling to the brief was seen as a nod to the Conservative right, who have long seen a tough justice system as central plank of any Tory agenda.

But his tough stance on prison numbers, Mr Grayling said he was supportive of Mr Clarke’s policies to rehabilitate inmates.

Private firms could be paid according to results, he said, in a nod to a policy introduced by Mr Clarke.

And he also promised to bring an end to the stalking of victims by inmates using social media after they have successfully smuggled mobile phones in to prison.

“It’s completely unacceptable,” he said. “I’ve talked to victims of crime who are effectively being stalked by the person who attacked them.

“It is the case that mobile phones are smuggled into prisons. We have powers to take tough action on that front, blocking signals, other ways of clamping down on it.”

Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners described the comments as pre-conference ‘posturing’.

Mr Leech said: “Let’s set the record straight – no prisoner, at any prison, sits in their cell watching the match on Sky Sports – prisons do not have access to satellite television – and Chris Grayling must know this.

“Secondly in cell television is an earned privilege, which prisoners pay for and which can be removed if they do not comply with the rules.

“Although as the political Conference season is about to start these kind of ‘whip em up’ comments are to be expected, it is worrying that we see this political posturing creeping back into the political rhetoric from no less a figure than the Secretary of State for Justice; if we deserve anything from the Secretary of State for Justice it is surely that his comments are educated and based on facts; these are neither.”