Peter Williams: Even prisoners need to connect

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Inmates have showed they will go to extraordinary lengths to make a phone call. Photo / Doug Sherring
Inmates have showed they will go to extraordinary lengths to make a phone call. Photo / Doug Sherring

There's a need for prisoners to have access to a phone and it's one everyone should understand: they need to communicate with their families.

We're all tribal beings at heart and the desire to connect with our loved ones is inherent. In prison, however, it's very difficult for inmates to make phone calls.

Under the Corrections Act 2004, prisoners are entitled to one phone call a week. In reality, there's often only one phone for up to 50 people and prisoners are allowed out of their cells for only a limited time.

Some will argue that access to phones will lead to prisoners organising crimes. The simple answer is that a landline can be monitored and conversations recorded. It is of interest that the chief inspector of prisons in England has recommended that prison cells be equipped with landlines which can all be monitored. That is far safer than what we have now.

There's another important reason for prisoners to have access to phones: prisoners need to be able to tell the outside world what is going on in there - for their safety and for everyone's. That prisoners are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to have a phone should tell us how important they are.


Peter Williams, QC, is a human rights lawyer.

- Herald on Sunday

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