Working with Older and Disabled Prisoners: May to August 2020
PAS continues to assist older and disabled prisoners in England and Wales, despite ongoing restrictions to prison access which has meant the suspension of our Outreach Clinic service. Our core telephone advice line remains open however, with the number of calls received from prisoners continuing to increase. Currently 21% of our callers are older prisoners, whilst 34% identify as having a health condition. Meanwhile 28% of the letters we receive are from older prisoners, with 58% of the letters from those with a health condition. During the last quarter, our website has had over 22,200 views, with our self help toolkits proving popular to visitors.
Case Study: PAS Upholds Prisoners' Rights in Lockdown
Several prisoners in one of the largest prisons contacted our Advice Line some weeks into the lockdown complaining of the internal policy relating to time out of their cells and access to video visits. Prisons have been running restricted regimes in response to the covid-19 pandemic, but this prison had a written behaviour management policy during the pandemic, whereby access to time out of their cells – 30 minutes each day – and access to video visits would be restricted where prisoners were deemed to breach this policy.
There have been some legislative changes to prisoners’ regimes however time out of cells, which is a statutory minimum, is unaffected.
PAS wrote to the prison in question to remind them that time out of their cells was a statutory right to which prisoners are entitled and which could not be restricted except in very limited circumstances. We also made the case that video visits, a new initiative in prisons, were intended to ameliorate the stinging loss of face to face visits during the lockdown and ought to be viewed as having similar status to mandatory rights. The prison governor responded to our letter stating that they had reviewed the behaviour policy and removed the loss of time out of cell and access to video visits as sanctions.
Prisoners’ Advice Service remains most grateful to GlobalGiving for helping to support our work with older and disabled prisoners in England and Wales. It is particularly relevant at this time, as the Coronavirus restrictions mean continued distress for prisoners and their families. The donations we receive from individuals such as yourself are crucial to enable us to continue providing this vital support.