Secure video calls with prisoners

You can have a secure video call with a prisoner using your mobile phone or tablet.

Video calls last 30 minutes and each prisoner can have up to 4 people on the call. Calls are free of charge during the Coronavirus outbreak.

This service is available at most prisons in England and Wales. You can check individual prison information pages to see which are offering video calls.

Having a secure video call with a prisoner

You can have a video call using an app on your phone or tablet. It’s not possible to use a computer.

You must make sure that:

  • all video callers are on the prisoner’s visitor list
  • the ‘main caller’ is over 18 (people under 18 can be on the video call, as long as they are on the prisoner’s visitor list)

Video calls will be recorded and monitored by male or female prison staff. Secure video calls are limited to 1 a month.

What you’ll need to make a video call

  • mobile phone or tablet
  • passport, driving license or other government-issued photo ID
  • proof of address (if your ID does not include this)
  • the prisoner’s name, number and date of birth
  • names, dates of birth and addresses for everyone who would like to be on the video call

How to get set up for a video call

You need to use an app created by Purple Visits to have a video call with someone in prison. You must be over 18 to create an account in the app.

Step 1: Download and install the app

You can download the Purple Visits app from Google Play or the Apple App Store. You will need to install the app on your phone or tablet.

Step 2: Create an account in the app and add everyone who will be on the call

You need to create an account with Purple Visits. This involves taking a picture of your driving license, passport or other government-issued photo ID. It can take up to 24 hours for your account to be verified.

You must include the names and dates of birth of everyone who will be on the video call. You will need to upload ID for people over 18.

Finally, add the name of the person you want to want to have the video call with as a ‘contact’.

Step 3: Make a video call request or wait for prison staff to schedule the video call

The exact process of scheduling a call will depend on the prison.

For some prisons, you will be able to select a possible date and time in the next 7 days in the app. In other prisons, prison staff will book a date and time following a request from the prisoner.

Either way, you’ll receive a confirmation email when your video call has been scheduled

Step 4: Get set up for the video call

You need a reliable internet connection. Wifi is recommended, but you can also use 3G or 4G mobile data. Disconnect anything else that’s connected to the internet, for example other phones or computers, as this may improve your connection.

You don’t need headphones for the video call, but it may help with the sound quality.

Step 5: Have the video call

You’ll be able to enter a ‘waiting room’ 15 minutes before the video call is scheduled. Open the purple visits app to go through the security checks and be ready for the call to begin. Call times are fixed and cannot be extended.

Calls will be paused if anyone:

  • who is not booked on the call appears on the camera
  • behaves in a way that would not be appropriate for a social prison visit
  • tries to record the call or take a screenshot

If a call is paused, you will need to go through a security check before it can start again.

Tips for a successful video call

Keep the camera still and switch off notifications

Video calls may be interrupted by notifications and alerts, for example when you get a new email or sms message. Make sure they are switched off before the call starts.

Try and keep your phone or tablet as still as possible. It may be best to rest it against something.

Good lighting and a plain background

You must have the call in a private house rather than a cafe or public space. Make sure the room is well-lit. Uneven lighting, for example sunlight, can disrupt the way the system recognises faces.

It is best to sit in front of a plain wall. Pictures or patterns in the background may affect the camera being able to stay focused on your face.

Clear sight of everyone on the call

Make sure that your whole face - and the faces of any additional people - can be seen clearly.

If there are young children on the call, make sure they either look directly at the camera or else stay out of the picture.

The call may be paused if only part of a face or the back of a head can be seen.

Dress code and behaviour

You’ll need to follow the usual prison rules around what to wear and how to behave. Remember that all calls are recorded, and prison staff may monitor calls as they are happening. The call can be paused or ended if prison rules are not followed.

Published 27 May 2020
Last updated 4 August 2020 + show all updates
  1. Removed a line about a person's face needing to be in view of the camera at all times so the call doesn't pause. Linked to the prison directory instead of listing all prisons where calls are available.

  2. Added more prisons where video calls are available.

  3. Added to the list of prisons where secure video calls are available

  4. Added prisons where video calls are available

  5. Updated list of prisons offering secure video calls

  6. First published.