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 with the answers to many frequently asked questions listed here.  Information from Sodexo regarding public health measures and visiting arrangements at HMP Addiewell is available here. Information from Serco regarding HMP Kilmarnock is available 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. Some public health restrictions remain in place to help prevent the spread of Covid 19. Detailed information regarding use of face masks and social distancing requirements is available on the SPS website. In most cases family and friends are permitted to hug the person they are visiting briefly at the beginning and end of a visit subject to normal security requirements. In some cases, individual prisons may need to re-introduce restrictions on visiting and social contact in response to local outbreaks of Covid 19 so check with the prison before travelling. More information is available on our Visiting Prison page.

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

From now on all visitors on entry to a prison must complete a COVID triage questionnaire. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions, you will not be permitted to attend the visit. The questionnaire asks:

  • Do you or any member of your household/family have a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19?
  • Are you or any member of your household/family waiting for a COVID-19 test result?
  • Have you travelled internationally to any country which isn’t exempt from self-isolation rules in the last 14 days?
  • Have you had contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19?
  • Have you tested positive for COVID in the last 10 days?
  • Do you have any of the following symptoms?
  • high temperature or fever
  • new, continuous cough
  • loss or alteration to taste or smell
  • 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.

Unilink provide an Step by Step guidance sheet which can be accessed here.

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:

Can I still hand in money and property to my loved one in custody?

Prisons are not currently accepting money or property being handed in. However, money and property can be sent in the post. If you intend to send cash in the mail, please refer to Royal Mail for guidance.

Money can also be transferred via an online banking facility. It is transferred from your own personal banking app and not via a Government or SPS website. Further details on this can be found here on the SPS website.

International money cannot be transferred using this service and can only be sent in the mail.

New PPC deposit machine at HMP Barlinnie

PPC payments can now be made via a cash machine in the Atrium at HMP Barlinnie to all prisons across Scotland excluding HMP Kilmarnock and HMP Addiewell. If this pilot is a success, SPS hope to place the machines in other prisons. It is hoped this will help families who don’t have a bank account and therefore can’t use the online banking facility.  Please note this machine is for PPC payments only and cannot be used to withdraw cash.

The machine takes cash maximum of £50 in the following denominations: –

£20, £10, £5 only (£50 notes are not accepted). 

Machine instructions –

You need to provide the following information: –

Date of Birth for Prisoner

Prison number

The machine has a touch screen and will ask you for the above information.  Once you input the details into the machine a blue light will flash for you to insert money.  The cash machine will show you on screen how much money has been inserted.  The cash machine again prompts you by asking if you wish to continue.  Once you have placed the amount you want to go to PPC payment you should press continue.  The Cash Machine will then produce a receipt for your retention.

  • 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 as well as testing for COVID 19 is available here. 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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