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Community / Pilot project could see islanders video call friends and family in prison

TALKS are underway on a possible pilot project which could see local people virtually ‘visit’ loved ones in prison on the Scottish mainland through video calls.

It is hoped that the project could help to maintain contact between friends and families torn apart by stints in prison, supporting those who may not have the resources to regularly travel south for visits.

The finer details of the project are being sorted through by Shetland Islands Council’s criminal justice social work team in collaboration with the Scottish Prison Service.

Virtual visits are currently available in Aberdeen to people the Perth, Grampian, Barlinnie and Polmont prisons.

A pilot project has also been in place at Inverness since January, but the potential Shetland link-up is part of a scheme to extend this to the islands.

Shetland Community Justice Partnership chair Matt Mason said regular contact between people at home and their loved ones in prison maintains “very important social and family links”.

“The Shetland Community Justice Partnership is pleased to confirm that negotiations are currently underway with the Scottish Prison Service to provide facilities that will enable video visits from Shetland to all Scottish prison establishments,” he said.

“There is particular criteria and guidance that needs to be met before this can happen and the criminal justice social work team are leading on this.

“It is hoped that Shetland will be a successful pilot area to enable regular contact between individuals in prison and their families. This contact maintains very important social and family links and helps reintegration to their home communities.”

The Shetland Community Justice Partnership is a multi-agency group which aims to “secure the best possible outcomes for people with convictions, victims and witnesses, families and communities”.

It “wants to make sure that people with convictions, victims and witnesses, families and communities have access to the support they need to recover from the impact of crime”.

Members of the partnership include NHS Shetland, the police and fire services, Shetland Islands Council, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and Skills Development Scotland.