Hello friend,

The telephones we use in here have 3 categories of cleared numbers.

1. Universally cleared numbers throughout the prison estate; for example, all courts, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, and the Samaritans.
2. Locally cleared numbers specific to a particular prison.
3. Cleared numbers only specific to a particular prisoner.

One universally cleared number is the Government Legal Department (formerly The Treasury Solicitor). Unfortunately, they have recently changed their switchboard to an automated touch-tone system. You know the sort; “for customer service press 1.” Prison phones have their touch-tone ability turned off; however, it can be enabled, as in the case of the courts’ automated systems. In other words, I can use touch-tone to navigate through a courts’ system but cannot do the same when I call the GLD.

One might consider this an easy fix on the prison’s side, as I understand it can be, but their responses to my request to enable touch-tone for the GLD number was: “…touch-tone cannot be enabled for security purposes …” What? If that were the case touch-tone wouldn’t be enabled for the courts, or are they saying that the GLD, a government department who work on behalf of the Ministry of Justice (amongst other departments), is a security risk? If so, what makes them a security risk and not the courts? Paranoia trumps logic every time in here.

The only other possibility is that this is yet another example of prison incompetence. The GLD is a universally cleared number to allow all prisoners to contact them; which they are able to do before the automated system, but now no prisoner can go through the switchboard.

Be happy, be safe (and appreciate how easy it is for you to communicate).

Graham Coutts, 16th April 2017

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