Serco prisons welcome back social visits
In April, prisons across the UK started to welcome the return of social visits for prisoner family members.
Across the Serco managed prisons, it was HMP Thameside that led the charge by reopening their social visits on 13 April. This was quickly followed three days later by HMP Kilmarnock on 16 April, followed by HMP Lowdham Grange on 3 May, HMP Doncaster on 23 May and lastly, HMP Dovegate on 7 June.
The reintroduction of social visits reflected the easing of restrictions across the country. However, a great degree of caution needed to be taken by the MOJ and Serco, due the closed environments of prison being susceptible to additional COVID-19 outbreaks. Each prison must undergo their own risk assessments with the MOJ before they can ease restrictions. With safety in mind, social visits at each of the prisons started at a limited number per month and gradually increased with the further easing of restrictions in the outside community. The limited number of social visits was supported by the video calling software, Purple Visits, whose services increased since its introduction around December 2020.
Social visits and prisoner family connections have always played a crucial role to prisoner wellbeing, as well reducing a prisoner’s chance of reoffending once their sentence has finished.
In the months following the reintroduction of social visits, Serco prisons are now working towards allowing prisoners and their family to physically contact, in other words to have a hug! As long as prisoners and family members show a negative COVID-19 test result. This is already taking place in HMP Thameside, who reintroduced physical contact on August 16, followed by HMP Lowdham Grange on August 23, HMP Ashfield on August 27 and HMP Dovegate on August 30.