This joint report by the Prison Reform Trust (PRT), INQUEST and Pact (the Prison Advice and Care Trust) reveals that most prisons in England and Wales are failing in their duty to ensure that emergency phone lines are in place for families to share urgent concerns about self-harm and suicide risks of relatives in prison. This is in serious breach of government policy that families should be able to share concerns ‘without delay’.
The new research maps the provision of safer custody telephone lines across the prison estate - dedicated phone lines which enable family members and others to pass on urgent information when they have concerns.
It finds that provision is patchy, under-resourced and even non-existent in some prisons, leaving families struggling to share their concerns with prison staff. The report reveals that:
- Almost two in five (37%) prisons in England and Wales appeared to have no functioning dedicated safer custody telephone lines for families to get in touch.
- Of these, nearly one in five prisons (18%) had no publicly advertised number for a dedicated safer custody telephone line.
- A further 18% of prisons advertised a dedicated line, but when called the number either wasn’t operational, was not answered, or went through to a general prison switchboard.
- Of the 75 dedicated safer custody telephone lines that went through to safer custody departments, only 13 (17%) were answered by a member of staff.
- Over 80% of dedicated safer custody lines that went through to safer custody departments (62 prisons in total) put the caller straight through to an answer machine.