12 April 2022

Whenever someone comes into prison, they are asked to sign a Communications Compact before they can use the PIN phone system. One of the reasons we do this is to make sure they understand that all telephone calls to family and friends are recorded and may be listened to by prison staff. This is part of our prison rules.

At the moment people receiving calls are only told this if the person calling tells them they are calling from a prison.

However, starting from 25 April 2022, when you receive a call from someone in prison you will hear a pre-recorded message which will give you a choice about whether to accept the call or not. The message will say:

“This call is from a person currently in a prison in England/Wales. All calls are logged and recorded and may be listened to by a member of Prison staff. If you do not wish to accept this call, please hang up now.”

If you choose to continue with the call, it lets us know that you understand that the call is being recorded and you are happy to continue. The person calling you will not be charged for the phone call until after the message finishes playing. It will play every time you receive a call.

Important – please note: The time taken in connecting calls has slightly increased, so please be patient and stay on the line until the connection takes place.

Call recordings are kept for a maximum of 90 days before being automatically deleted. Some recordings may be kept if they have been monitored, and it is felt they need to be retained for the purposes of prison security.

Calls made from prisons in Wales will also repeat the message in Welsh.

This change is being made so that we can be confident that you are aware of the interception of calls that HMPPS carry out. A list of questions that people asked during a trial at some establishments in December is below, with more detail.

If you have any questions regarding this change, please contact [email protected]


What is the Pre-call Announcement?

When a prisoner phones a social contact, before the call is connected the following message will be played:

“This call is from a person currently in a prison in England/Wales. All calls are logged and recorded and may be listened to by a member of Prison staff. If you do not wish to accept this call, please hang up now.”

Calls from prisons in Wales will also hear the message repeated in Welsh.

In England the recorded message will be approximately 20 seconds long and for Wales approximately 40 seconds as we need to ensure we provide the message in both English and Welsh.

Why is this message being introduced?

HMPPS has a legal obligation to inform all parties of the recording of calls made from prisons, to ensure transparency and compliance with the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, and Prison Rule 35A. In his report to the Prime Minister in December 2020, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, who inspects interception of calls in prisons, stated that the current system was not adequate, and recommended the introduction of an audible warning to recipients of calls in order to increase compliance. This report is publicly available at https://www.ipco.org.uk/publications/annual-reports/

How much will it cost?

No extra cost is incurred by prisoners as a result of the message

Why can’t I provide my consent to being recorded in writing or electronically?

There are a few reasons why we can’t do this:

  • The phone systems are not able to hold your personal data. Contact numbers are stored with a simple explainer, such as “Mother”, “Friend”, “Cousin” etc. not your full name
  • Getting written consent could delay authorising contact numbers onto the system, preventing prisoners from making contact
  • We cannot guarantee that the person who answers the phone is the person who provided their consent originally

When my family member/friend went into prison someone phoned me to check that I was happy to receive calls, and I said I was. Why can’t you do that instead?

Prisons are not obliged to check every social contact number; this is done on a case-by-case basis depending on risk. Even where those checks are made, there is no guarantee that the person who gave their consent will be the person answering the phone each time.

What about someone who has deliberately not been told that an individual is in prison, such as a child or elderly relative?

It will not be possible to turn the service off for individual numbers. Potential alternatives should be considered, such as arranging for a carer to answer the phone first or choosing to inform all relatives/contacts that the individual is in prison.

Does anyone else do this?

Yes – Scottish prisons introduced a similar message around 7 years ago.

Will the message be played in Welsh for Welsh Prisons?

Yes - the message will be played in both languages from prisons in Wales.

Will the message be played in other languages?

No – the phone system cannot store your personal data, which includes your language of preference. Written translations of the message are provided in the languages most commonly spoken in prisons, and HMPPS is able to provide a translation in other languages if required.