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.