Support to access virtual prison visits now available from Prison Visitor Centres across Scotland

From Monday 19th July, families with a loved one in a Scottish prison can get support to access a video (‘virtual’) prison visit from prison visitor centres.

Independent charities running prison visitors’ centres are offering support to families to get online, book a virtual visit, and take part in a virtual visit to see their family member. They can also offer support for families on wider issues related to their family member’s imprisonment.

Virtual prison visits were launched by the Scottish Prison Service in July 2020 to help families stay in contact during the COVID-19 pandemic. Until now, families without access to the internet at home, or those without access to digital devices, have been unable to take up virtual visits. Some children with a parent in prison haven’t seen them now for over a year, though traditional in-person visits have gradually been reintroduced in recent months.

This new service will help to improve access to virtual prison visits by allowing a family to take part in a virtual prison visit from their nearest prison visitor centre, where laptops and technical support are now available. Visitor centre staff will also be on hand to provide digital support. For families who live a long way from the prison where their loved one is held, virtual visits help families to keep in touch regularly, without the hassle and expense of a long journey. People in prison who maintain positive family contact throughout their time in prison are much less likely to reoffend following release than those who lose contact. Supporting children to maintain contact with their parent in prison supports their rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to maintain a relationship with both of their parents, wherever that is in their best interests.

This new service was funded by a grant from the Scottish Government’s Winter Support Fund. The grant covered the cost of digital devices for organisations that work with children and families who are affected by imprisonment in Scotland.

Chief Executive of Families Outside and Vice-Chair of the National Prison Visitor Centre Steering Group, Professor Nancy Loucks said, “Family contact for children and families who are affected by imprisonment in Scotland has been severely disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The introduction of virtual visits was hugely welcome, however, it has been recognised that there are barriers to access, and a number of families have still struggled to access prison visits.

“This new service available to families at Visitors’ Centres will help to increase access to virtual prison visits. The pandemic is far from over, and we are aware that a number of families with a loved one in prison are still apprehensive of travelling on public transport for long distances. However, family contact improves outcomes for both those in prison and their families, reinforcing the importance of widening access to virtual prison visits in both the short- and long-term.”

Families with a loved one in prison can book a virtual prison visit slot at their closest prison visitor centre by calling the centre directly using the telephone numbers below;

HMP Addiewell – 07522907329                              HMP Low Moss – 01417629703

HMP Shotts – 01501824141                                     HMP Barlinnie – 07484664950

HMP Corton Vale – 07843216930                          HMP Kilmarnock – 07778158097

HMP Inverness – 07717780465                              HMP Glenochil – 07843216930

HMP Grampian – 01779485829                              HMP Polmont – 01384722330

HMP Edinburgh – 01314443098                             HMP Perth – 01738625503

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