A scheme to give prisoners mobile phones will cost the taxpayer up to £1million.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf revealed the initiative last month after jail visits were cancelled because of coronavirus.

But over six weeks later, none of the handsets are in place despite a seven-figure sum having been allocated.

The cash has come from a pilot scheme announced last June to put landlines in Polmont Young Offenders Institute in a bid to address mental health concerns.

But a Scottish Prison Service (SPS) spokesman has said that had now been cancelled with the finance redirected to supply all prisoners with mobiles.

The £1million is only expected to cover set-up costs rather than ongoing contract fees.

Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf

It is unclear whether the scheme will be in place before normal visiting can be resumed as lockdown is eased.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: “In these unprecedented circumstances, people will understand the rationale behind the project.

“But the cost seems very great and it is to be hoped that a transparent procurement process ensured value for taxpayers’ money.

“It is imperative that, in rolling this out, the SNP guarantees that it will not allow criminals to use these devices to continue any criminal activity or terrorise victims.”

The Government has said there will be security restrictions on the phones in line with the current prison landline system.

Officials also insist calls will be monitored and will only be made to approved phone numbers.

Inmates will not be able to send texts, access the internet or receive incoming calls. Delays in getting the scheme off the ground are understood to include issues with mobile phone signals, which the prison service has sought to restrict.

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The SPS said: “The Polmont pilot will no longer go ahead and it is anticipated the cost of providing mobiles will be contained within that budget.

“We are continuing to develop this project and hope to be in a position to release more details soon.”

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The Scottish Government added: “Indicative costs and timescales were provided and considered by the Scottish Government before the proposal to introduce mobile phones in prisons was approved.”

A total of 154 inmates were released early between May 6 and May 18 under powers given to governors by the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020.





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