NI: More than 70 NI prisoners given access to Skype

NI: More than 70 NI prisoners given access to Skype

More than 70 prisoners at HMP Magilligan in Northern Ireland have been given access to Skype in order to contact their family as part of a new prisoner rehabilitation project.

The medium to low security prison, located near Limavady, is the first in the UK to introduce a scheme whereby qualifying prisoners can make personal video calls to family members for up to 30 minutes each week.

David Eagleson, governor of Magilligan, explained: “The audio visual Skype link allows prisoners to make personal video calls to loved ones. 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.”

Mr Eagleson also said the prison plans to roll out Skype access to more prisoners in the near future.

He added: “One of the most serious aspects of being in prison can be the sense of isolation and even abandonment; and one of the most effective support that can be given to prisoners is the assurance that they are not forgotten.

“Moreover, imprisonment may also have a devastating effect on the development of relationships between a child and father. 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.”

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) peer Lord Morrow has criticised the scheme, denying that it will “prevent re-offending or lead to any meaningful rehabilitation”.

Lord Morrow has submitted questions to Justice Minister David Ford querying the prison’s policy.

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