Do Prisoners Have Internet Access in British Prisons?

Prison Info

Access to the internet in prisons is a hotly debated topic. In the UK, according to the law, internet access for prisoners is largely restricted. However, it’s not as cut and dry as a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There are areas within the prison where prisoners can access the internet but with various limitations. Here’s a detailed look at the what, why, and how of prisoners’ access to the internet in UK prisons.

Access to the Internet in General Population Area

Generally speaking, British prisoners do not have access to the internet in their cells or general living areas. The Prison Rules 1999 – Rule 35, prohibits the possession of unauthorised devices including those capable of accessing the internet. So, most of the prisoners do not have unrestricted, personal access to the internet.

Access to the Internet in Learning or Education Centres

On the educational front, prisoners are often given limited access to computers and the internet for educational purposes. This, however, happens under strict monitoring and stringent rules. Inmates who enrol on distance learning courses often use the internet, but only on monitored computers and with controlled content.

Access to the Internet for Legal Research

There’s often a need for prisoners to do legal research, especially those working on appeals against their convictions. For this purpose, they usually have access to a ‘legal database’, not the open internet, which offers a wealth of legal information on a secure offline server.

Access to the Internet for Work or Rehabilitation Purposes

Some prisons have a system where prisoners can access certain job search websites to apply for work, ready for when they leave prison. Certain secure laptops are also provided by some prisons for enhanced prisoners, which allow word processing and in-cell learning,

Virtual Visits and Video Calls

A recent trend in British Prison Service has been the use of video calling or virtual visits. This allows prisoners to see and talk with family, especially during times when in-person visits are not possible or allowed. It’s worth noting that these sessions are pre-scheduled and monitored by prison staff, and it’s not open internet access.

Access to the Prisoner’s Secure Email System

Interestingly, many prisons provide access to a secure email system known as ‘Email a Prisoner’. The emails sent and received are monitored, and typically, the prisoners can only respond via postal mail. Again, this is done through dedicated systems and is not the same as open internet access.

Vitalism – A Digital Solution Introduced During COVID-19

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new digital solution, ‘Vitalism’ was introduced in some prisons. This offers a form of secure digital healthcare to prisoners and involves the use of digital kiosks and in-cell tablets. However, despite representing a significant investment in digital technology, these devices do not provide access to the open internet.

What about Social Media?

Access to social media platforms by prisoners is strictly prohibited in the UK. There have been cases where some inmates have managed to gain illegal access to social media platforms, but these are exceptions rather than the norm. Action is usually swiftly taken against those found using social media from inside prison.

What about Mobile Devices?

Possession of mobile phones in prisons is illegal under section 40D of the Prison Act 1952. A convicted prisoner could get up to two extra years on their sentence for the illegal possession of a mobile.

The Future

While there are ongoing debates and discussions about the extent to which prisoners should access the internet, the current restrictions on internet access are primarily based on security concerns and the overall intent of penal reform.

Proponents of internet access argue that it’s essential for education and maintaining family ties. Critics, on the other hand, worry about the potential for misuse. Only time will tell how these dynamics will shape the future of internet access in prisons.

What is the cheapest way to call from Prison?

It is by far cheaper to call landline numbers - however landlines are becoming less common in homes & it is by far more convenient to call your loved ones mobile incase you are calling when they aren't at home. Our call packages gives you the best of both worlds - landline call pricing, but the prisoner can call you on your mobile!

Is it cheaper to call a landline from prison?

Most definitely - YES! Mobiles can cost over 25p per minute, the precious phone credit runs out very fast! Our unlimited prison calls package saves money whilst adding the convenience of being able to pickup calls on your mobile.
© PRISON INFO. All rights reserved.