Prisoners at Magilligan near Limavady are being given access to Skype for personal video calls to family as part of a new rehabilitation project.
More than 70 approved prisoners have access to the Skype audio visual technology from inside the prison, the first in the United Kingdom to introduce the facility.
Governor of Magilligan David Eagleson 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.”
Governor Eagleson added: “We launched Skype as a pilot scheme at the end of last year. Apart from the initial cost in installing the equipment, it is free to use. The link is set up in a safe and secure environment for a prisoner to make personal video calls to loved ones for up to 30 minutes each week. The suite is completely sound-proof, but security cameras monitor the calls.
“The uptake among the prison population was slow to start but it is being used by more and more prisoners, including foreign nationals, who are husbands and fathers and those who wish to maintain a good relationship with their families. We are now also planning to roll it out to more prisoners in the 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.”