Prisoners will have phone, computers and showers in their cells in new jails

HMP Thameside … operated by Serco.

Prisoners in newly-built jails will have phones and computer terminals in their cells so they are able to contact relatives, arrange activities and order meals.

The feature will be rolled out in the newest prisons in the UK in order to improve the quality of prisoner accommodation.

According to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) published today, in-cell phones and computer terminals have already been installed in HMP Thameside.

The report recommended new prisons contain ‘terminals to book activities and order meals’.

It added: ‘In-cell telephones, as well as allowing prisoners to maintain family contact (important for successful rehabilitation), also contribute to prisoner safety,’ the report said.

The phones will be used in new prisons throughout England and Wales, where more than 2,500 prisoners are housed.

The Government’s spending watchdog said the facilities built by National Offender Management Service provide ‘a good standard of accommodation for prisoners.’

The report said that the new forms of communication had been welcomed by prisoners in focus groups.

‘Prisoners generally recognised the improvement in accommodation, as has the independent inspectorate,’ it added.

More than 90 per cent of cells have built-in showers and in all new buildings have attached toilets.

The report, which looked at value for money across the prison system, said the measures were introduced because they saved funds.

Removing the need to unlock prisoners to wash helps to reduce staff costs, while in-cell telephones reduce the need to set up queues for communal phones or watch prisoners out of their cells.

Elsewhere the report said more foreign prisoners should be removed from the country after the number of deportations fell by 14 per cent since 2009.

It added: ‘Removing more prisoners would allow the Agency to reduce prison capacity. This could happen if the Home Office prioritised cases better, improved case administration and used the foreign national offender-only prisons, that the Agency has created, more effectively.’

Meanwhile only 14 per cent of prisoners in new capacity now share cells – but some are in overcrowded conditions, the report said, adding it was ‘against United Nations and Council of Europe guidelines’.

The report claimed changes to the prison system have saved £71 million since 2010.

Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said fitting phones, showers and computers should not be a replacement for time out of cell.
 
“Phones in cells are important, especially for foreign prisoners with families in different time zones, so too computers are important to enable study and the ability to have a daily shower is simply good hygiene.
 
“But equally its vital they are not seen as a replacement for purposeful activity or time out of cell – those at risk of self harm and suicide need to be observed not simply locked away where out of sight can so easily lead to tragedy.
 

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