Support for families to access virtual prison visits

Families with a loved one in a Scottish prison can get support to access a virtual prison visit from prison visitor centres.

Monday, 19th July 2021, 9:52 am
HMP Grampian
HMP Grampian

Independent charities are offering support to families to get online, book and take part in a virtual visit to see their family member.

They can also offer support for families on wider issues related to imprisonment.

Virtual prison visits were launched by the Scottish Prison Service in July 2020 to help families stay in contact during the pandemic.

Until now, families without Internet access 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 in-person visits have gradually been re-introduced in recent months.

This new service will allow a family to take part in a virtual prison visit from their nearest prison visitor centre, where laptops and technical support are now available.

Prisoners who maintain positive family contact throughout their time in prison are much less likely to reoffend following release than those who lose contact.

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

Chief executive of Families Outside and vice-chairwoman of the National Prison Visitor Centre Steering Group, Professor Nancy Louck, said: “Family contact for children and families who are affected by imprisonment in Scotland has been severely disrupted during pandemic.

"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.

“The pandemic is far from over, and we are aware a number of families are still apprehensive of travelling on public transport for long distances, reinforcing the importance of widening access to virtual prison visits in both the short and long term.”

Families can book a virtual prison visit slot at their closest prison visitor centre by calling the centre directly – for HMP Grampian this is on 01779 485829.