Visiting Prison

Visiting Times

Visiting times remain altered to reflect staffing arrangements and the impact of Covid 19 in each establishment. Consequently, visiting times may differ between establishments. Information regarding local visiting times and arrangements can be found here

For other ways to keep in touch with someone in custody please see our Keeping in Touch page.

Testing before you visit a prison 

The Scottish Prison Service strongly recommends that you test before a visit to any of their establishments.  Regular testing provides assurance and helps to further control the spread of the Covid-19 virus, benefiting those in custody, staff, and family visiting. Lateral flow tests are at-home Covid tests that give quick results. You do not need to go to a testing centre and tests can be collected from your local Visitors’ Centre, a pharmacy or ordered for free from the Gov.Uk website


Public Health measures remain in place across the prison estate:

Face Masks/Coverings

All visitors over the age of 12 years of age, and unless exempt, must wear a face mask on entering the prison (including the Visitors’ Centre), and until seated in the visit area; although not mandatory, wearing masks throughout the visits is strongly advised.

Visitors who advise that they are exempt from wearing a face mask will not be required to wear one. However, visitors who are exempt must advise the prison when booking the visit or prior to the visit taking place that they are exempt, to allow the prison to put in place any necessary arrangements required to safely facilitate the visit.


Rules around hand washing and use of hand sanitiser should continue to be observed by all visitors. Hand sanitisers will be available both at the entrance to the prison and within the visit area. Where possible hand sanitiser will be available at the table, but where this is not possible, hand sanitiser dispensers will be in place within the visit area. Visitors will not be permitted to wear disposable gloves during their visit.

Social Distancing

From Monday 24th January visitors will be required to maintain a minimum of 1-metre distance from those not in their group within the establishment and whilst being escorted to and from the entrance to the visit area.

Visiting Group Size

Establishments to operate within the maximum group size and number of Households –  3 visitors, 12 years old and over, from 3 households.

There should be no formal limit to the number of dependent children under 12 (up to and including aged 11) who can attend a visit and they do not count as one of the 3 visitors. However, local risk assessments have been carried out in each establishment to determine the group size permitted to attend each visiting session. This may vary between each establishment; further details are available here.

Please note – young people 12 years old and over will be considered as an adult visitor, however, young people, over 11 but under 16, must be accompanied by an appropriate adult.

Physical Contact

People in custody may make physical contact with their visitors, such as a hug or handshake, when they first greet at the beginning of the visit and when saying goodbye at the end of the visit. Both the person in custody and the visitor must be wearing a face mask where there is any physical contact.

Visitors under the age of 12 may have physical contact throughout the visit.

Anyone who is exempt from wearing a face mask/face covering must not make physical contact during the visit unless they are willing to wear a face covering for the duration of any physical contact.

Out-with the brief physical contact, all visitors should maintain a minimum of 2-metres distance between them and the person in our care.


Visitors and people in custody are permitted to eat or drink while seated during the visit.

Visitors should make only one trip to the coffee/tea bar or vending machine during the visit. Antibacterial/antiviral wipes will be made available beside the vending machines to allow cleaning by the visitor between uses.

Refreshment facilities may vary between establishments; more information can be found here.

Triage Questionnaire on arrival at the prison 

All visitors on entry to a prison must complete a Covid 19 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 10 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

In all establishments, the Governor retains the autonomy to consider individual visits regimes and 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.

Families Outside will provide information through Twitter, Facebook and our Helpline if we become aware of significant outbreaks in prisons or restrictions on visits.

Preparing for a visit

Some people may find visiting a prison daunting. This can be especially true for children or those who have never visited a prison before.  Families Outside have produced a booklet called My Visit:A photo guide which is designed to support children with what to expect when visiting a prison.

Although all prisons are different we hope this walkthrough at HMP Grampian gives you an idea of what to expect:




Visitors’ Centres

The majority of prisons in Scotland now have a Visitors’ Centre service for family members visiting the prison.  Visitors’ Centres are a vital service that:

  • improve the visits experience for people visiting their family member or loved one in prison by providing facilities and refreshments
  • provide families access to independent and impartial advice, information, and support; and
  • voice the needs of families affected by imprisonment to the Prison Service.

All Visitors Centres are operated by not for profit organisations, which are independent of the prisons they work alongside.  Each centre is managed by friendly, professional staff who provide a welcoming, family-friendly area which can offer information, support, or help to families visiting the prison.

Families Outside provides the national coordinating role for Prison Visitors’ Centres in Scotland.

Please click on the relevant prison link above for more information on the Visitors’ Centre at that prison.

Further information can also be found on Twitter (@HMPJustVisiting) and Facebook (Prison Visitors’ Centres in Scotland)

Prison Information

For more information about Prison Visitor Centres – please view the Scottish Prison Services website.

My first time visiting someone in this prison and I have found everyone really nice and helpful. The whole visit was really relaxed and friendly. The hub is a great resource. Very kind, friendly and helpful people-it made the whole experience so much easier. Thank you.

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