Guidance

Secure video calls with prisoners

How to book and make a secure video call with somebody in prison.

You can book and take part in a secure video call with a family member or friend in prisons in England and Wales.

Video calls last 30 minutes and can have up to 4 people on the call talking to a prisoner. All callers must be on the prisoner’s visitor list and the ‘main caller’ must be over 18. People under 18 can be on the video call, as long as they are on the prisoner’s visitor list.

Calls are free of charge at the moment. This will be reviewed as we continue to lift COVID-19 restrictions in prisons and more visits can take place.

Video call security

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 view or listen to calls as they are happening. The call can be paused or ended if prison rules are not followed.

What you’ll need to make a video call

  • Mobile phone or tablet – this service is not available using a computer
  • An account with a secure video calling application
  • Passport, driving license or another 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 one of 2 apps to have a video call with someone in prison. The app you need to use will depend on the prison.

To find out which app is used by the prison you wish to call, please visit the relevant GOV.UK page for individual prisons.

Step 1: Download and install an app

Download the app being used at the prison.

You can download the Prison Video app via the Prison Video website and Purple Visits app via the Purple Visits website.

Both apps are free and also available 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

To create an account on either app you will need to be over 18 years old and have 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.

Once verified, set up the call: You must include the names and dates of birth of everyone who will be on the video call. You will also 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

The exact process of booking 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, 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. Wi-Fi is recommended, but you can also use 3G or 4G mobile data.

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

Step 5: Have the video call

You should open your app ahead of the scheduled video call time and be ready for the call to start. 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 text message. Make sure they are switched off before the call starts.

Try to 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 place 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.

Published 27 May 2020
Last updated 23 February 2022 + show all updates
  1. Secure video calls information has been updated.

  2. 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.

  3. Added more prisons where video calls are available.

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

  5. Added prisons where video calls are available

  6. Updated list of prisons offering secure video calls

  7. First published.