Government shut down 600 social media accounts run by prison inmates last year

MoJ implements a range of measures to combat illicit use of mobiles 

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During 2018 government digital investigators found and removed 600 social-media accounts being run by prison inmates.

In a written parliamentary question, Conservative MP for North East Hampshire Ranil Jayawardena asked the Ministry of Justice what additional powers and technologies it intended to provide to prison officers “to prevent prisoners uploading footage and accessing YouTube and other social media channels”.

In response, prisons minister Lucy Frazer pointed to a £100m investment being made by the government to equip prisons with “tough, airport-style security and X-ray body scanners to detect contraband, such as mobile phones, hidden inside prisoners’ bodies”.

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The minister added that the government had also last year amended the laws concerning the use of wireless communications in prison. The changes have given technology firms greater powers to disrupt connectivity signals, she said.

“These amendments would enable public communications providers, such as a mobile phone network operator, to be authorised to interfere with wireless telegraphy in prisons. Working with mobile network operators, as industry experts, will place HM Prison and Probation Service in a better position to develop future-proofed solutions. In addition, Telecommunication Restriction Orders have allowed HMPPS to block the use of specific mobile phones in prisons.”

The prisons service – which is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice – also operates a Digital Investigations Unit that is charged with rooting out online accounts being run by inmates. Last year it successfully eliminated almost 600 of these.

Frazer said: “HMPPS… works with prisons to identify offenders accessing websites and shuts their access down quickly. In 2018, over 594 social media profiles were removed.”


Sam Trendall

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