COVID-19 Guidance

The Scottish Prison Service provides the latest information on how they are responding to the Covid 19 pandemic including their updated pandemic plan on their website here.

  • Can I still get support from Families Outside?

Families Outside support staff continue to provide support, information and advocacy to families affected by imprisonment. Our Support & Information Helpline is operating as normal and can be contacted on:

Freephone Helpline: 0800 254 0088


Webchat: on the Families Outside website  

Text: FAMOUT and your message to 60777

All platforms are monitored between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Families Outside’s Group Work and Peer Support service encourages families to work together and learn from one another’s lived experience. Sessions are continuing and are currently taking place on Zoom. Further information is available is available here.

Our Regional Family Support Coordinators are working within Covid-19 guidance and continue to provide one-to-one support for families in their local community, further information is available here.

  • Can I visit my family member in prison?

Families with a loved one in a Scottish prison can now visit them in person once again from Monday 26 April. Please see our Visiting Prison page for more information.

You should contact your local prison before travelling to the prison if

  1. you or a member of your household has symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, a new continuous cough, or loss of taste of smell
  2. you have been asked to self-isolate
  3. you live in an area under travel restrictions due to local transmission of COVID-19.
  • Keeping in Touch with someone who is in Prison

Virtual Visits It is now possible to book a Virtual Visit with your family member in prison. This SPS YouTube tutorial provides further information on Virtual Visits, including how to book.

On the 23rd March 2021 there was an update to the Virtual Visit System from Unilink.  A step by step guidance document is available which explains these changes.

In summary the changes to the Virtual Visit System are:

For Visitors – When requesting a visit, the visitor can now include comments regarding the booking in a comments box which will be seen by the visit staff as they deal with the booking.

For Staff and Visitors – If a request for a visit is being rejected by staff there is now a drop down lists with the reason for the request being rejected, which is included in the email to the customer, a reason needs to be selected in order to proceed.

For Staff – When a visit is being terminate by the observing officer, the system will now ask for a reason why from a drop down list.

A Virtual Visit Q&A is available here, as well as a Virtual Visit Myth Busting Sheet here.

Please contact the Families Outside Helpline with any questions or for further information.

Prison Voicemail

Prison Voicemail is now available in all establishments. Further information on how to use this facility can be found here.

Mobile Phones

The SPS have issued mobile phones to those in custody for use in theirs cells at any time. Each person in custody is allocated a monthly allocation of minutes, and the numbers they can access are moderated by SPS. In addition to a list of pre-approved numbers of family and friends, people in custody can access the Samaritans Helpline from these phones. These phones cannot accept incoming calls from family members.  A mobile phone Q&A can be found here.

Email a Prisoner

You can send messages via the email a Prisoner website, it takes only a few minutes to sign up and, the message gets delivered to the prison rapidly.

The systems allow you to write an email, press ‘send’ and sit back in the knowledge the email will be delivered safely, securely & ready for delivery to the prison of your choice. Your message is printed inside the prison and will be included in the daily mail delivery.

You can access the Email a Prisoner website:


  • What is the Scottish Prison Service doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect my family member’s health?

The latest information from the Scottish Prison Service on the number of people in prison who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who are self-isolating is available here. There is also information regarding the steps the SPS are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Scotland’s prisons and support any prisoner who has tested positive.

  • Will my family member in prison be vaccinated against COVID 19?

Vaccines to prevent the spread of COVID 19 are being offered to those in prison. Information about how the vaccination programme is being rolled out in Scottish Prisons is included in the SPS Pandemic Plan available on their website. The regime for vaccinating prisoners is in line with the roll out of the vaccination for the general population to clinically vulnerable groups and then by age group. The vaccination programme in prisons is being managed by local NHS Health Boards and not by the SPS.

  • What should I do if I am worried about the health and/or welfare of someone in prison?

If you have concerns about the mental health, physical health or welfare of a relative or friend in a Scottish prison, please voice your concerns to the prison. You can do this by phoning the individual prison and asking to speak to someone about concerns you have for a person in their custody. You may wish to ask to speak to the Duty Manager or hall manager for the hall which the person is on. However, any member of prison staff should be able to take note of your concerns and pass these to the appropriate staff on your behalf. Information on how to contact individual prisons is available here.

Families with concerns are advised to check the latest information on the SPS website before contacting the prison.

Families Outside Helpline staff can speak with the prison on your behalf to share your concerns, with your permission. Please call The Families Outside Support & Information Helpline on 0800 254 0088 if this is something you would like to talk to us about.

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