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 taking place on Zoom and in person where possible. Further information 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 are able to visit them in person.  Most prisons have now reintroduced evening and weekend visits, as well as Children’s visits.

Visiting times and the number of visits prisons can offer each month differ between prisons.  For information regarding local visiting times and arrangements, please contact the prison directly – contact details for individual prisons can be found here, or alternatively, you can contact Families Outside (contact details above) or the Visitors’ Centre at the prison.  The SPS website also provides information on visiting SPS Website

Please see our Visiting Page for further guidance on public health restrictions in place to help prevent the spread 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.

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 on the SPS website 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.

Following the Scottish Government’s announcement on changes to self-isolation, Test and Protect will continue to work with the SPS where positive cases are confirmed.  SPS will continue to identify those who may be a close contact of a positive case in prison and pass the details to the local Health Protection Team. Where an outbreak occurs that may impact on prison visitors, SPS will continue to provide details of visitors to the local NHS Health Protection Team.

From 9 August, an adult who is identified as a close contact of a confirmed case will no longer be automatically required to self-isolate for 10 days. If someone has received two doses of an approved vaccine, with at least two weeks since the second dose, and if they have no symptoms, they should get a PCR test as soon as possible. If the PCR test is negative, self-isolation can then be ended.

It is an individual staff member’s responsibility to determine if they require to self-isolate. Where a member of staff is identified as a close contact and they advise they are not required to self-isolate, SPS do not require proof of vaccination or a PCR test result before they return to work.

NHS will hold the record of the vaccination status of those in custody and they should advise SPS where a prisoner is required to isolate because they are a close contact of a positive case. There is no requirement for SPS to know the vaccination status of prisoners.

It is recognised that there is an increased likelihood of Covid 19 transmission in a prison, compared to in the community. While physical distancing has been removed in the community, anybody living and working in a prison will still be required to maintain a distance of 1 metre from others.

In the course of their work, particularly where they cannot physically distance, a prison officer is expected to wear a Type II Fluid Repellent mask. These masks are a form of personal protective equipment and are similar to mask worn in hospitals, they provide additional protection for both the person wearing the mask and others..

  • 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. 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. Where uptake of vaccination is low, as in the community, health boards are taking further action to encourage people working and living in prisons to book a vaccination appointment.

  • 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 relevant hall. 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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