Magilligan Prison has set up an audio-visual connection for prisoners to have more contact with their families
Prisoners at Magilligan Prison in Northern Ireland are being allowed to use Skype to talk to their families as part of a rehabilitation project.
More than 70 approved prisoners are able to use the technology from inside the prison in what the Department of Justice (DoJ) said is a first for the UK.
Governor of Magilligan David Eagleson said that the link is set up in a secure environment, sound-proofed and monitored by security cameras, for a prisoner to make up to 30 minutes of calls each week.
“The audio-visual Skype link allows prisoners to make personal video calls to loved ones,” he said. “We know that when prisoners have strong family support they're in better shape for reintegration to family and community and we see this as an important part of the rehabilitation process.”
He said the programme began at the end of last year and the original take-up was slow, but that it is now being used by an increasing number of prisoners, especially those with wives and children. This is reducing their sense of isolation.
“Imprisonment may also have a devastating effect on the development of relationships between a child and father,” Eagleson said. “Being able to interact in ‘real time’ with their father, in their own home, helps children to understand he is engaged with their lives, interested in their achievements, and is there to support them in times of difficulty.
“This interaction also helps foster a sense of security, mitigate any negative social and developmental aspects on the children, and ease the reintegration of the father into the family home following release.”
Magilligan (pictured) is a medium to low security prison which holds male prisoners with six years or less to serve and who meet the relevant security classification
A DoJ spokesperson said that at the moment there are no plans to extend the scheme to other prisons, but that it may be considered in the future.
Image by RMcDonald, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons