Detailed guide: Coronavirus (COVID-19) and prisons

Ministry Of Justice

July 9
16:17 2020

This page will be updated as new advice becomes available.

Prison social visits in England and Wales

You can now visit partners or close family members in some prisons. Certain restrictions apply. Find out which prisons have social visits

There are a number of other ways to contact someone in prison if you are unable to visit them. For example you might be able to leave a voice message using thePrison Voicemail Serviceor send them an email using theemail a prisonerservice. You can alsowrite to them.

As a temporary measure, secure phone handsets will be given to prisoners at 55 prisons allowing risk-assessed prisoners to speak to a small number of pre-authorised contacts.

There are also a number ofother helplinesthat can provide guidance.

Secure video calling has been introduced in some prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs) across England and Wales with a wider rollout in the coming weeks. Video calls are free for both prisoners and their families while we are dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak. Find out which prisons and institutions have video calling.

What we are doing to keep people safe in prisons

Prisons have been working closely with public health and NHS services to put robust contingency plans in place. The plans prioritise the safety of staff, prisoners and visitors.

Existing, well-developed procedures are in place to manage outbreaks of infectious diseases and prisons 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.

Risk-assessed prisoners who are within two months of their release date will be temporarily released from prison, as part of the national plan to protect the NHS and save lives.

Changes to regimes

The usual regime in prisons has been paused temporarily to apply social distancing. This is vital for keeping prisoners and staff safe and preventing the spread of the virus.

This means prisoners can no longer take part in usual recreational activities such as using the gym, going to worship or visiting the library.

Only essential workers such as kitchen staff or wing cleaners will continue with their jobs but people will still get paid.

Support for prisoners, such as advice on in-cell worship, exercise and managing anxiety will be provided.

If you are a friend or relative of a prisoner and want to know how this affects prison regimes, see Coronavirus: Q&A for friends and family of prisoners. We will continue to update and answer your frequently-asked questions.

Parole Board hearings and jury trials

All face-to-face Parole Board hearings have been temporarily suspended. The Parole Board will progress cases through a combination of remote hearings and a paper review process, sometimes combined with case management hearings.

New jury trials have started in some courts.

Find out more about jury trials and Parole Board hearings.

How we will update you about the impact of coronavirus on prisons

If there are changes to the general advice for visitors or the operation of the prison system, we will:

  • Update advice on this guidance page
  • Issue updates on Twitter@HMPPSand@MoJGovUK

We also have a range of ways to communicate advice and guidance to people in prison, includingNational Prison Radio

If you have urgent concerns about someone in prison during the coronavirus outbreak

If you have urgent concerns about someone in prison you should call the prison direct. Contact details are available on thePrison Finder.

Prisoners Families Helpline

Telephone: 0808 808 2003

Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm

Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 3pm

Find out about call charges

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

Find out about call charges

You can also get help and advice from:

Published 13 March 2020
Last updated 9 July 2020 +show all updates
  1. Update to information on prison visits

  2. Content updated to say restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic remain in place.

  3. Updated information on secure video calling.

  4. Secure video calls will be introduced to prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs) across England and Wales.

  5. We have added additional contacts to help families and friends of prisoners who have an urgent concern.

  6. Updated to provide a link to our Coronavirus: Q&A for family and friends

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