COVID-19 Guidance

Many families may have concerns following news this week of significant COVID 19 outbreaks in a number of Scottish Prisons. The Scottish Prison Service has the latest information on how they are responding to this, including their updated pandemic plan available on their website here.

People in prison now have access to phones in their cells so, if families are worried, they can call to let their family know they are ok. However, these phones do not accept incoming calls.

  • 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 here.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Scottish Prisons are currently responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in a number of prisons. 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.

  • Can I visit my family member in prison?

Throughout the pandemic face to face visits in prisons have been subject to restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19. At the current time in person visits are still permitted on compassionate grounds in the following circumstances:

  1. you have any concerns about the wellbeing of someone in prison
  2. the visit involves a child under 18 who is visiting a parent, grandparent or sibling
  3. the visit involves someone in prison who is under 18

These visits may be subject to approval by individual prison Governors. We would suggest that the individual in custody discusses this with a member of staff if they wish to make use of these 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. Please contact the Families Outside Helpline with any questions or for further information.

  • Keeping in Touch with someone who is in Prison

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.

  • What support is available for my children while schools are closed?

Families Outside continue to support children and young people affected by imprisonment. If you are the parent of a child who is affected by imprisonment, or you are a professional who is working with a child who is affected by imprisonment, please get in touch with the Families Outside Helpline. Families Outside have a range of resources, including our Factsheet, Talking to Children about Imprisonment, which you may find helpful. Please get in touch with the Families Outside Helpline for support, information and further resources on how to support a child through this experience.

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