The Justice Secretary has ruled out installing telephones in prison cells and called on governors to use "common sense" over allowing prisoners to stay up all night watching television.
Scottish Prison Service chief executive Colin McConnell caused a stir at Holyrood's Justice Committee last month when he suggested prisoners should be allowed phones in their cells. Mr McConnell also suggested prisoners should be encouraged to watch television "sensibly" rather than imposing a curfew on them.
Less than a month after Mr McConnell's appearance, inspectors at Polmont Young Offenders Institution found inmates still in bed in the afternoon "having been up late the previous night watching television in their cells".
Mr McConnell has now told the committee that his phrase "I would have telephones in cells" was "a metaphor" and that his comments have been "sensationalised".
Labour MSP Graeme Pearson said: "At the last meeting Mr McConnell indicated that his view of access to televisions was that they should access as they would wish over the 24-hour period, as I understood it, and he also rehearsed a notion of access to telephones in cells.
"In the latest HM Inspectorate of Prisons report about Polmont, the inspector makes a very particular comment about young offenders lying in bed in their cells right on into the afternoon, and connecting that to watching television overnight."
He asked whether 24-hour television and telephones in cells would be reflected in government policy.
Mr MacAskill said: "It's common sense that if someone is staying up all night watching television or whatever then they won't be able to contribute purposefully.
"I think these are decisions best dealt with by the common sense of prison officers but I think there is also a common-sense position that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, there comes a time where the lights need to go off and you need to go to your bed."
Mr MacAskill said he would "require some persuasion" about telephones in cells. He added: "Therefore, the position stays as it is. The laws have been tightened and we are not going to vary from that at the present moment."