We warmly welcome today's statement from the Catholic Church, joining calls for the government to tackle the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) by urgently releasing some people in prison where it is safe to do so.

Speaking on behalf of the Church, the Lead Bishop for prisons, Rt Rev Richard Moth, said: "The tens of thousands of women and men in our overcrowded prisons are at particular risk from this pandemic. They are no less deserving of safety and healthcare than anyone else in our society. It is very encouraging that ministers are considering releasing some people... Given the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading this should be done as soon as safely possible, particularly for older or unwell people, pregnant women and those who can be released on temporary licence without posing any risk to the wider public."

The Bishop also called for more to be done to help families keep in touch with their loved ones in prison. He continued, "For those who will remain in prison it is vitally important that the Ministry of Justice and the Prison Service continues extending access to phones and other opportunities from them to stay in touch with their families, now that visits have been suspended."

Pact are working closely with Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and other agencies to minimise the risk associated with the early release of prisoners, and to continue to support family contact as much as possible at this very difficult time. We will continue to offer as much support as we can to prisoners and their families throughout this ongoing crisis - and beyond - and applaud the efforts already taken by HMPPS to encourage and facilitate contact between prisoners and their loved ones. 

If you have a loved one in prison and need information, advice or support on any aspect of the criminal justice system, please contact the Prisoners' Families Helpline on 0808 808 2003 (9am - 8pm Monday to Friday and 10am - 3pm at the weekend) or through [email protected]