SECURE video calls are now running in all prisons and young offender institutions in the south west, including Dorset, helping to maintain vital family ties and boost rehabilitation during the pandemic.

In just over six months, more than 90,000 video calls have been made totalling 45,000 hours and connecting families in more than 100 countries, while social visits were suspended.

The calls allow prisoners to see their children, say goodbye to a terminally-ill loved one and help those struggling with mental health.

For one inmate at Dorset's Guys Marsh prison, near Shaftesbury, it allowed him to view a relative's funeral service.

He said: “I was able to be part of the funeral. With the restrictions in place I thought I would never be able to say goodbye with my other family members but video calls made it possible.

"I got to be part of the service which made my loss more bearable.”

HMP Guys Marsh Governor Ian Walters said: “As an establishment we have been able to continue to facilitate and strengthen family ties with our residents throughout the pandemic by utilising modern technology within the custodial setting.

“The implementation of video calling for the residents has proved to be successful. Although there is no substitute for face-to-face contact and social visits, this really helps prisoner wellbeing.”

The video calls take place on secure laptops in a designated area. Safeguards are in place to prevent misuse with all participants checked in advance, calls are monitored by prison staff and restrictions have been built into the software to ensure safe use.

A review found that close bonds between prisoners and family members can significantly reduce their risk of reoffending.

Currently, video calls remain free of charge to prisoners and their loved-ones while social visits are restricted.