Our response to Covid-19

This page aims to provide contact information for prisoners’ families at all Serco managed prisons. It will also be progressively updated to provide information on how we are managing Covid-19 including activities that help to safeguard prisoners’ health and wellbeing.

Notice to families

As you will be aware, in January 2021, changes were made to the regimes in prisons in the UK to slow the spread of coronavirus and to help keep prisoners safe.

This resulted in the suspension of visits in the adult estate in England and Scotland in line with the National Lockdown. This included all six Serco managed prisons.

Now, reflecting the national easing restrictions across the UK, we are preparing to ease the restrictions to the prison regime, starting with HMP Ashfield and HMP Thameside both resuming social visits on Friday 16th April.

If you are planning a social visit to one of the two prisons highlighted above, please read the social visits guidelines found under the Social Visits in Prisons section of this page.

Prisoner Friends & Families Contact Methods:

Here is a list of alternative options on how prisoners can be contacted by friends & family.

  1. Video Visits, using Purple Visits at prisons in England and Unilink at HMP Kilmarnock, Scotland are now available and friends and families are now able to book video calls. If you have a friend or family member currently residing in HMPs Ashfield, Dovegate, Doncaster, Lowdham Grange or Thameside go to Purple Visits’ website. If they are residing in HMP Kilmarnock in Scotland go to Unilink’s website

  2. Email a prisoner - You can send email messages to prisoners using email a prisoner.

  3. Phone - Prisoners are given 10-minutes of free phone credit each day on top of their prison phone credit, which they can use to call their friends and family.

Social Visits in Prisons

As part of the gradual re-introducing of social visits in prisons, we have issued a guide on the requirements visitors must follow to help protect the safety of residents.

  1. Face coverings: All visitors aged 11 and over are required to wear face coverings on arrival at the prison site moving around the prison and leaving the visit and establishment unless requested to remove them for security checks. Prisoners are not currently required to wear face coverings.

  2. All visitors, new and existing, are reminded that they must bring their photo ID and proof of address with them for every visit until further notice. Failure to provide one or both of these will mean entry into the prison will be refused

  3. Visits will prioritise re-establishing face-to-face contact with close family members (or significant others) comprising the following grouping combinations only:

Please note: 'Significant Others' might include partners, carers or an individual on whom the person in prison relies on for emotional support.

Visits will not therefore be allowed from:

  • ‚ÄčAny combinations of persons not from the same household.
  • Three adults.
  • Unaccompanied children.
  • People who are not closely related to the prisoner or identified as a significant other.
  1. Visits will be allowed for all other prisoners, including those who are shielding so long as social distancing measures are maintained at all times (closed visits may be considered if you have a serious condition).

  2. Visits booking: As part of the visits booking process, we will confirm the rules above are adhered to with your visitor. We will let you know shortly how we plan to book visits.

  3. Frequency of visits: Prisons will try and offer the opportunity for each prisoner to receive one visit per month initially. We will offer more if we have spare capacity.

  4. Length of visits: All Serco prisons will provide more than this in recognition of distances travelled and provide 1.5 hours per visit.

  5. Who can you visit?: Visits will not be allowed to:

  • Protective Isolation Prisoners - Protective isolation is used for the temporary isolation of symptomatic prisoners and those who have been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case. 
  • Reverse Cohorting Unit Prisoners - those new to custody, those returning from bed watch, inter-prison transfers and ongoing trials who are required to spend 14 days in a unit to prevent the spread of infection from the community into the main population in custody.
  1. Social distancing during visits: Visitors must maintain 2m distance both between prisoners and other visit groups. It is not necessary for visitors that are from the same household to maintain 2 between themselves, but they must remain 2m away from the prisoner and other visit groups. Visitors must keep their face coverings on whilst being seated, leaving the visit or moving around the visit room for any other reason for the visit’s duration. 

  2. Physical Contact: For visitors aged 11 and over, no physical contact will be allowed on visits (including handshakes, handholding, hugs or kisses) in order to maintain social distancing and reduce the risks to prisoners, staff and other visitors.
  3. Adhering to mandatory safety instructions: As a condition of a visit, all visitors aged 11 and over must observe social distancing and other visit rules throughout the visit including any specific instructions offered by staff.  Not doing so on the part of either the visitors or prisoners will result in a warning but repeated violations may result in the visit being ended on grounds of safety.

  4. Where one or more children are included on a visit, the accompanying adult(s) will be held responsible for the oversight of the children during the visit. Not doing so will result in a warning and violations may result in the visit being ended early on the grounds of safety.
  5. Indoor Creche/Play Areas/Toys: Indoor creche and play areas will not be available on resumption of social visits. All children must remain seated.

  6. Refreshments: Refreshments will not be available in the visits halls.

  7. Property: No property may be brought or handed in by visitors on visits.

Prisoner Enrichment Hub

A workout routine

In Cell Workout

We all know that exercising is good for your overall wellbeing. So in order to assist with keep fit LJ Flanders kindly allowed us to make paper copies of his In Cell Work Out so that anyone who wanted to have a structured work out plan could do so. In Cell uses body weight as a resistance training method, no equipment is required and the workout can be completed in a room. The programme is over ten weeks however it can be dipped into for certain specific areas. All of the workouts can be adapted to suit the individual’s needs or abilities. There are also relaxation and meditation sessions to help calm and focus the mind.

Pages of quizzes and puzzles

Puzzles, Sudoku, word searches, Quizzes and more

From improving memory and better problem-solving skills to improved mood and lowering stress levels. People love a puzzle, so we have been printing out puzzles of all levels and themes to help pass the time in a constructive way. There have been wing quizzes with prizes, everything from ‘Name that flag’ to music and general knowledge rounds. A fun way to test your knowledge and enhance it. In addition, colouring packs for mindfulness activity have been very popular, plenty of rainbows have made it on to walls and windows!  

A poem

Creative writing

With thanks to Rowan at Shakespeare UnBard who each week sent three packs in with different ability levels so there were no barriers for anyone wanting to join in. All the greats from Shakespeare were covered from Romeo & Juliet to A Midsummers Dream. The pack invited the reader to take part in reflective thinking, designing and alternative endings. Alongside this creative offering was Arabella at Kestrel Theatre Company who each week provided creative writing packs in the form of playwriting and drama resources from fun sketches to full length dramas. Lots to keep the creative vibe strong.

Quote from prisoner saying: Always takes the time to listen to me

Feedback from prisoners

Here is some of the feedback from those who took part in the in-cell enrichment activities:

“Thanks for keeping me busy”

“Thanks to the staff for their hard work, these activities have been essential to making our tie in lockdown as stress free as possible”

“For giving us the resources we need – thanks”

“Everyone is going the extra mile and I know it’s really as stressful for them too at the moment – thanks”

“All of them have worked hard to keep us safe – special thanks you for the ‘goodie bags’ (sweets and chocolate)”

“Staff putting their lives at risk every day – how can we say thank you in words”

“To the staff that have gone beyond their job description to take time to put together the activities for everyone – thank you.”

Contact details of our establishments:

HMP Ashfield

  • Main Switchboard Phoneline: 0117 303 8000
  • Address: Shortwood Road, Pucklechurch, Bristol, BS16 9QJ
  • Twitter: @HMPAshfield
  • Website

HMP Doncaster

  • Main Switchboard Phoneline: 01302 760870
  • Address: HMP & YOI Doncaster, Marshgate, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, DN5 8UX
  • Twitter: @HMPdoncaster
  • Website

HMP Dovegate

  • Main Switchboard Phoneline: 01283 829400
  • Address: HMP Dovegate, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, ST14 8XR
  • Twitter: @HMPdovegate
  • Website

HMP Lowdham Grange

HMP Thameside

HMP Kilmarnock

  • Main Switchboard Phoneline: 01563 548 800
  • Address: H M Prison Kilmarnock, Mauchline Road, Kilmarnock, KA1 5AA
  • Twitter: @HMP_Kilmarnock
  • Website

Other useful links:

Websites with information and guidance for friends, families and significant others of those in prisons