Prisoners use of digital connection has tripled during the COVID-19 crisis. This is evident from the latest statistics of the use of email in prison to connect to Samaritans.
The increase from the four months prior to COVID-19 to the four months after is +200%.
Unilink and Samaritans have launched the service at HMP Wayland that allows people in prison to message Samaritans for emotional support.
Unilink designed the software solution that allows people in prison to send private and confidential messages to Samaritans from their in-cell computers and kiosks. Funded by a grant from HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), Samaritans volunteers in 12 branches are receiving and responding to these messages within 24 hours.
Francis Toye, CEO of Unilink said “It is vital to provide every possible means to connect prisoners and Samaritans. Prison time is hard and dispiriting and I am really proud that Unilink is helping in this way to make prisons work better. At Unilink we are really proud to be involved”.
In the first 3 months of the pilot, 453 messages had been sent from men in HMP Wayland to Samaritans. Recently, the total numbers tripled. The service is available 24 hours a day and complements Samaritans’ helpline and peer support Listener scheme, which are both available to people in the prison.
This new service forms part of the Ministry of Justice’s wider work to reduce self-harm and suicide in prisons, with a £70million investment to improve safety and conditions, and the recruitment of more than 4,700 new prison officers so every prisoner can have a dedicated officer for support.
More information here.