Guidance for families and friends of people in prison in England and Wales during the coronavirus pandemic.
Update 19 July 2021
England has moved to Step 4 of the roadmap. Find out what has changed in England and in Wales
There is different advice for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
From 19 July, some restrictions such as social distancing may remain in place in prisons because they are high-risk environments due to the high number of people living and working together, making the spread of infection more difficult to control and the risk of outbreaks more acute. Assessments will be carried out by service managers in consultation with or as a result of advice from Directors of Public Health, who will be able to continue to advise on social distancing measures to control and prevent outbreaks.
The use of social distancing will be targeted, time limited, and kept under review.
Read about the visiting rules
Prison visits in England & Wales
Prisons in England and Wales are resuming social visits when it is safe to do so. This is when a prison achieves stage 3 of the National Framework for Prisons. This decision will be made by HM Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS) in partnership with health partners.
Certain restrictions apply because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This means that it’s important to check local guidance regularly as the situation in individual prisons may change. Find out which prisons have social visits
If you are unable to visit someone in prison you can still keep in touch. Find out about other ways of keeping in touch.
Contact someone in prison
If you are unable to visit someone in prison, you can contact them by:
- leaving a voice message using the Prison Voicemail Service
- sending an email using the email a prisoner service
- writing to them.
Additional temporary secure phone handsets were issued to all prisons that did not have in-cell telephony installed. More on telephone calls.
Prisons and young offender institutions (YOI) across England and Wales have secure video calling. Video calls are currently free for both prisoners and their families. Find out more about prison video calling.
What we are doing to keep people safe in prisons
Prisons are working with public health and NHS services and continue to prioritise the safety of staff, prisoners and visitors.
All prisons have introduced covid-secure ways of working. Prisons have procedures to manage outbreaks of infectious diseases and are prepared if cases are identified. Plans are in place for dealing with staff absences if staff working in prisons need to self-isolate.
Handwashing facilities are available to prisoners, staff and visitors and we have worked closely with suppliers to ensure the supply of soap and cleaning materials.
Changes to regimes
Our priority is to limit the spread of the virus and to protect the lives of those who live and work in our prisons.
This means that whilst prisons will aim to maintain current regimes, temporary changes may need to be put into place. All prisons are different and regime changes may vary across the country. We will continue to follow public health advice in relation to prisons.
Parole Board hearings
The majority of Parole Board hearings are now taking place remotely. For the small number of cases that are so sensitive and complex that they require a face to face hearing, the Parole Board is working with prisons to establish arrangements for safe hearings to take place..
Find out more about Parole Board hearings.
How we will update you about the impact of coronavirus on prisons
We also have a range of ways to communicate advice and guidance to people in prison, including National Prison Radio
Urgent concerns about someone in prison
If you have urgent concerns about someone in prison you should contact the prison directly.
Other support for families
Prisoners’ Families Helpline
Telephone: 0808 808 2003
Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm
Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 3pm
Families Outside Support and Information Helpline
For prisons in Scotland only
Telephone: 0800 254 0088
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Saturday and Sunday, Closed