Visit someone in prison during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Information and guidance about visiting prisons in England and Wales.

Applies to England and Wales

England has returned to Plan A. You should continue to protect yourself and others.

More information about the changes

Find out how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

There is different advice for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Prison visits in England & Wales

Prisons in England and Wales have resumed social visits when safe to do so. This decision is made by HM Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS) in partnership with health partners.

The below 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.

When not to visit a prison

You must not visit anyone in a prison if you are self-isolating and you should not if you have symptoms of COVID-19. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 - a new continuous cough, a high temperature, a loss or change to your normal sense of taste or smell - even if your symptoms are mild, you should stay at home and arrange to have a PCR test.

Information about whether you might need to self-isolate and how you can protect others if:

Find out more about what to do if you have COVID-19.

Who can visit an adult prison

To visit someone in an adult prison, you must be:

  • aged 18 or over, or under 18 accompanied by an eligible adult (see Visiting an adult prison, YOI or STC in a group)
  • a partner, parent, sibling, child, foster-parent, grandparent, carer or significant other of the person you are visiting, or an individual on whom the person in prison relies for emotional support

Who can visit a young offender institute (YOI) or secure training centre (STC)

To visit someone in a YOI or STC, you must be:

  • aged 18 or over, or under 18 accompanied by an eligible adult (see Visiting an adult prison, YOI or STC in a group)
  • a partner, parent, sibling, child, foster-parent, grandparent, carer or significant other of the person you are visiting, an individual on whom the person in YOI or STC relies on for emotional support, or a social worker for looked after children (LAC)
  • an adult, though not the parent, who is part of the same household as the parent of the dependent child. To note, siblings who are classed as LAC may need a social worker to attend with them.

Visiting an adult prison, YOI or STC in a group

The following rules apply:

  • 1 adult can visit a prisoner with up to 1 other adult
  • if you’re the only adult visiting, you can bring up to 2 children
  • if you’re visiting with another adult, you can only bring 1 child

Visiting rules

During your visit you must:

  • follow all prison COVID-secure guidelines and measures (such as social distancing) to ensure your, the prisoners’ and staff safety, following advice from prison staff as necessary
  • wear a face covering
  • remove face coverings if staff need to carry out security checks
  • regular handwashing and use of hand sanitiser

You cannot bring any refreshments to a prison, except if you are bringing food or milk for a baby. You can ask staff for water. Play facilities will not be available at any prison.

Children under 11

Children under 11 are allowed contact if it is in line with the prison’s normal rules.

Testing at social visits

Visitors aged 12 and over need to take a lateral flow device test (LFD) before coming for their visit. If your test is negative, you and your visitors will be able to have physical contact during your visit, but you will all need to wear a face covering.

Individual prisons may have to alter the way they operate visits – sometimes at short notice to keep everyone as safe as possible. Check with the prison first

Taking the test

You should take a rapid lateral flow device (LFD) test at home on the day of the visit. More information about how to order LFD tests and report your results.

After taking a home test you must register your test and the result. Once you have done this you will get a text or email confirming your registration of your result. A copy of this email/text showing a negative result is required to be shown to the visits staff as evidence.

You can also bring a test with you to take at the prison, but it is best to test before you leave home in case it is a positive result.

If you cannot take a test for medical reasons, you will need to provide written evidence explaining why this is. 

Some prisons may be able to offer testing on site. Check with the prison first.

Testing negative

If the test is negative, you can continue with your visit and have physical contact with the person you are visiting.

You will still need to follow other restrictions while moving around the prison like wearing a mask and social distancing if the prison requires you to do so.

Testing positive

If you test positive for COVID-19 by LFD test at home you must self-isolate and follow this guidance. You should also book a PCR test.

Your visit will be postponed until after your isolation period ends.

The prison will speak to the person in custody who was expecting a visit and a postponed visit won’t have any impact on an individual’s visit allocation.

Published 14 July 2020
Last updated 19 January 2022 + show all updates
  1. 19 January 2022 update about Plan B measures being lifted

  2. Updated visiting information.

  3. Page updated.

  4. Updated due to 16 August changes to self-isolation rules

  5. Update to information about testing for contact at prison visits.

  6. Updates required due to move to step 4 of roadmap.

  7. Information about testing for physical contact added.

  8. Page updated.

  9. Added information about visiting prisons

  10. Updated with information about prison social visits being suspended due to the current national lockdown.

  11. Updated to reflect changes in tiering

  12. Updated to reflect tier 4 in England and alert level 4 in Wales.

  13. Addition of information related to Tier 3 areas.

  14. Updated as a result of local restriction tiers.

  15. Updates to include information about new rules in Wales.

  16. Updated due to national restrictions beginning on 5 November.

  17. Additional information about Wales added.

  18. Updated page with information about Local COVID Alert Levels

  19. Update to guidance on prison visits

  20. First published.