You can contact a prisoner by writing to them. Normally there is no limit on the number of letters you can send. Most letters sent to and from prison are checked by prison staff. Prisons can’t open letters from solicitors and courts except in special cases, for example if they suspect a letter isn’t really from a legal adviser.

You can complain to the prison if you think your letters are being read when they shouldn’t be, or if your letters aren’t reaching the prisoner.

Telephone calls

The prisoner has to call you using a prison phone. Prison staff can listen to and record most types of call. Some calls aren’t monitored, for example when a prisoner calls a legal adviser.

 - New arrivals

The prison should allow new arrivals the opportunity to make a telephone call when they arrive to let their families know where they are. This may not happen if they arrive late in the evening or if the reception process takes a long time. Prisoners are not allowed mobile phones, so please bear in mind that if they have not written down or memorised their stored phone numbers, they may not be able to get in touch.

Once in prison, the prisoner has to pay for telephone calls, so they will not be able to call until they have money in their account.

Prisons operate a PIN system for the telephones which may take a few days to set up so this can cause a delay in them making contact.

There may also be specific times of day when prisoners are able to use the phone, and they may have to queue.


You cannot email prisoners directly, but some prisons use a service called Email a Prisoner. If you send a message this way, it will be printed out and delivered by prison staff. Each email costs 35p and you need to buy credit to use the service. In some prisons, prisoners can also reply through Email a Prisoner. Contact the prison to find out if they allow this.

Secure Video Calls

Some prisons offer a secure video call service called Prison Video. You will need to use the Prison Video app on your phone or tablet device to have a video call with someone in prison.

The Prison Video app is available to download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store (or equivalent app stores outside the UK).  HMPPS has produced a user guide and a list of frequently asked questions that will give you all the information you need to start using Prison Video. You can find this at https://www.prisonersfamilies.org/change-of-video-call-service

Only people aged 18 or over can register for an account with Prison Video.

Social Media

Prisoners are not allowed to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter whilst in prison. 

Urgent messages

Prison chaplains can usually pass on urgent messages, especially about things that could be upsetting for the prisoner such as a death in the family.