'Lunacy' to put smart TVs in women's jails

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The controversial move, which is part of a digital revamp by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), has been described as “absolute lunacy” by critics. But prison bosses insist the technology will save money and help ensure the next generation of women-only jails feel like more “domestic” environments. The laptop-sized TVs will allow offenders to place food orders from their cells using a digitised menu showing pictures of meal options and nutritional information such as sugar or fat content. 

The devices – costing around £100 each – will also enable inmates to buy sweets from the prison shop, schedule visiting times, access education and training packages, and possibly even make phone calls home.

Campaigners branded the plans “disgraceful” and said it was “yet another kick in the teeth for victims’ families”.

Kevin Hogg, from the National Victims’ Association, said: “Do something constructive to halt re-offending, never mind smart TVs, apps and telephones.

“It’s absolute lunacy. I have an app on my phone called Just Eat – it sounds very similar.”

He added: “We can’t keep punishing prisoners again and again when they’re incarcerated, but the scales of justice are so imbalanced.

“Why should an offender get special privileges like a smart TV? Not to mention the possible repercussions of installing them – some have internet access. It would be of greater use if the SPS spent money on identifying the needs of individuals and try to prevent them re-offending.”

The SPS has issued a pre-contract notice to say it is seeking software suppliers to discuss the development of the menu app by the end of next year.

It would be installed on 150 smart TVs across three locations, including the new Women’s National Facility, to replace Cornton Vale prison in Stirling, as well as community custody units (CCUs) in Glasgow and Dundee.

An SPS spokesman said “everyone in the world now interacts digitally”, and added: “People can make their menu choices, book visits, and get access to education and training packages in-cell.

“Not only will it make the process more efficient and more effective, it will actually be a significant cost-saver in terms of the amount of administration.”

He admitted the prison service would “probably be looking at in-cell telephones as well”, and continued: “The thing about smart TVs is it is technically possible to use the television to make a telephone call.

“In Cornton Vale and the two CCUs, the feel of the environments is much more domestic than anything we’ve got thus far.

“Women don’t require the same level of physical security that men do and the security of these buildings has been designed into the building rather than having big bars on the windows.

“But they are still secure.”

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