Below are a selection of our most commonly asked questions regarding prisoners and their families. Click the title to reveal each answer.

The criminal justice system is full of words that many people are not familiar with. If there is a word used in the FAQs or anywhere else on our website that you are unsure of, please vist our Jargon Buster.

Note : Some of this information may have been impacted by Coronavirus, please check our latest Covid-19 Guidance for the latest information.

If you have a question you would like answered or even feel there is a frequently asked question we have not covered please contact us.

When can I visit my relative in prison?

In most Scottish prisons, if you wish to visit a person who is on Remand/Untried (ie someone who has not been convicted), the visitor telephones the prison’s dedicated booking line to book a visit. The visitor’s name must be on a visit sheet completed by the prisoner. Remand visits will normally take place at a different time from convicted visits.

If you wish to visit a person who is convicted, it is the responsibility of the prisoner to book your visit and to let you know what day and time you can visit. The prisoner will be informed how to do this. All prisons will have a list of visit times for visitors.

Further information can be found on our information sheet Visiting Someone in a Scottish Prison.

How often can I visit?

This will depend on the prison your family member is in and whether they are on remand or have been convicted. Remand prisoners can usually have visits up to six times per week; convicted prisoners are more likely to have weekly visits.

Further information can be found on our information sheet Visiting Someone in a Scottish Prison.

What can I take with me?

In all Scottish prisons you need to provide photographic identification such as a passport or photo driving licence or a Government approved I.D. (Families Outside can provide application forms for approved I.D.). You will also need proof of your address. All other belongings should be stored in lockers provided at the prison establishment whilst the visit takes place. You may be allowed to take in loose change for buying refreshments within the visiting room.

Further information can be found on our information sheet Prison Visits – Do’s & Don’ts.

Can I get help towards the cost of travelling?

Yes: providing that you receive certain benefits and are a close relative or partner of the prisoner, then you may be able to get help with the cost of 2 visits per month from Help With Prison Visits. For more information about Help With Prison Visits, visit www.gov.uk/help-with-prison-visits or the Families Outside website (www.familiesoutside.org.uk).

Help With Prison Visits can be contacted on 0300 063 2100 (Monday to Friday 9.00am – 5.00pm), or you can call us on our confidential Freephone Helpline 0800 254 0088.

Further info can also be found on our information sheet Travel/Transport to Scottish Prisons

Can my children visit?

Yes, children can be taken to visit someone in prison. However, if the prisoner has been convicted of a sexual offence against a child, special rules will apply. Families Outside provides information sheets on visiting with your child and how to talk to children about imprisonment.

Further information can be found on our information sheets Talking to Children about Imprisonment and Visiting Prison with your Children.

Or you may want to visit the Kids section of our website.

Is there anyone I can speak to at the prison?

Yes. Check our website to see if there is a Visitors’ Centre at the prison. If there is, there will be a Family Worker based there and whom you should be able to speak to. Each Scottish prison will also have a Family Contact Officer (FCO). The FCO is an officer based within the prison and who can act as a liaison between the prisoner and the family member. You can speak to an FCO when you visit the prison or can make an appointment for a mutually convenient time to speak.

Further information can be found on our information sheet Where to go for Help.

Or you may want to visit the Support & Information section of our website.

How can I get an urgent message to a prisoner?

Prison staff will not pass on general messages but will endeavour to pass on critical or very urgent messages such as close family serious illness. If you are worried about a prisoner who has suicidal feelings or is in danger of harming themselves, please talk to someone straight away.

In this instance you should telephone the main prison number and explain the problem to the operator who will transfer you to the appropriate person. If you are unhappy about their response (and it is within normal working hours) you may wish to redial and ask to speak to the Family Contact Officer or Chaplaincy.

Further information can be found on our information sheets Where to go for Help and Worried About Self Harm or Suicide.

Can I email a prisoner?

This service operates at some of the prisons in Scotland and is a very quick and convenient way of staying in touch.

You have to be a member of emailaprisoner.com before you can send a message to a prisoner, and there is a cost for this (from 25 pence per message). Your message is forwarded to the prison within seconds so that it can be delivered to the prisoner by the prison staff in the next delivery.

To use this facility, sign up to Email a Prisoner at www.emailaprisoner.com

What can I give the prisoner?

You can give money to a prisoner, but you can’t hand it over to them in person: you have to send it in the post or hand it into the property desk at the prison, usually before a visit, or at a specific time.

You might want to give the prisoner some of his or her property e.g. items of their clothing. At most prisons, there is a property desk where visitors can hand in property for a prisoner. Each prison has its own strict rules about how to submit property, and what items can be handed in, so you should check with the prison before doing anything.

Further information can be found on our information sheet Prison Visits – Do’s & Don’ts.

What can I send in for my relative?

Each prison in Scotland may have different rules about this, which can be subject to change. In addition, prisoners on different privilege levels may be allowed different things. Prisoners should be advised by prison staff what their property entitlement is. All items being sent into prison must be on a Proform completed by the prisoner.

Items which cannot be sent into any prison include: food, cigarettes, or toiletries. Most of these items can be purchased by prisoners from the prison shop or ‘canteen’.


In general letters will not be read by prison staff, however they will be opened by staff. If you wish to send in money to your relative, it is advised to send it in the form of a postal order, made payable to The Governor. Do not send cheques (which can take up to a month to clear) or cash through the post. You will need to put the prisoner’s name and prison number on the back and also your own name and address. Address the envelope with the prisoner’s name and number like an ordinary letter. (You can include a letter with the postal order if you wish.) Its probably advisable to keep the counterfoil of any postal order until you are sure it has been put on the prisoner’s account.

What is ICM?

Integrated Case Management (ICM) is a process where different agencies work closely with the Scottish Prison Service to give prisoners help and support to deal with their social or personal difficulties, so that they are less likely to reoffend when they are released. Family members can be involved in this process with the prisoner’s permission. A case conference is held on an annual basis to which the family will be invited (with the prisoner’s permission) and usually involves relevant personnel and agencies who have been, or will be involved with the prisoner, looking at their sentence management and preparation for release. Support for family attending the case conference meetings can be given by Families Outside.

Further information can be found on our information sheet Integrated Case Management.

What is HDC?

The Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme applies to prisoners who are serving sentences of between three months and under four years. It allows prisoners to be released early from prison to a suitable and approved address on an electronic tag and under a curfew.

Further information can be found on our information sheet Home Detention Curfew.

I need some support myself; who can I talk to?

Families Outside offers a Support & Information Helpline, an independent support service for families and friends affected by imprisonment. Families Outside also provides direct support to families affected by imprisonment throughout the whole of Scotland.

Please contact the Support & Information Helpline on freephone 0800 254 0088 if you wish to be put in touch with the Family Support Coordinator in your area.

Further information can be found on our information sheet Where to go for Help.

Or you may want to visit the Support & Information section of our website or the Links page.

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