Extended video hours for official visits

7 December 2020

Dear Colleagues
Following previous updates to the defence community regarding work to extend prison video operating hours for official visits in court-facing prisons, I am pleased to share further progress in this area. The following 28 Reception/Local Prisons have now extended their operating hours for prison video to facilitate professional visits:-
  • Belmarsh
  • Berwyn
  • Birmingham
  • Brinsford
  • Bristol
  • Bullingdon
  • Cardiff
  • Chelmsford
  • Cookham Wood
  • Feltham
  • Hewell
  • High Down
  • Hull
  • Isle of Wight
  • Leeds
  • Leicester
  • Lincoln
  • Liverpool
  • Nottingham
  • Pentonville
  • Peterborough (Women)
  • Peterborough (Men)
  • Preston
  • Swansea
  • Thameside
  • Werrington
  • Wetherby
  • Wormwood Scrubs
Of the remaining prisons with a reception function, a small number do not need to extend their operating hours as the demand for professional visits can be met within the current video capacity and operating hours (evidenced by waiting times of one or two days). Work is continuing with the others, with HMPs Elmley and Lewes looking to extend their hours by early January 2021 (please note that this is subject to staffing). Prison video appointments during these extended hours should be booked in the same way as for standard hours. Please note that these additional operating hours are to enable consultations and interviews necessary to progress hearings and cases deemed a priority in accordance with the guiding principles circulated by Jo Farrar, HMPPS Chief Executive Officer earlier this autumn. They are not intended for court hearings outside normal sitting times, other than the continuous cover over lunch, enabling courts to avoid having to break proceedings around the normal fairly lengthy prison lunch period.

Saturday video slots for official visits

In addition to extended hours within the working week, the following prisons are currently offering Saturday video slots for official visits:
  • HMP Forest Bank
  • HMP Lincoln
  • HMP Pentonville
  • HMP Wetherby
Current data suggest these slots are not being fully utilised. Clearly, we may need to review this provision if demand remains low.

In-person Visits

HMPPS confirmed at the beginning of the recent restrictions that face-to-face official visits should continue in Covid-secure settings. With one or two exceptions, all prisons are now offering in-person official visits.

Increasing physical video capacity update

We are aiming to deliver at least a 50% increase in physical video capacity across prisons serving the courts by the end of the current financial year (2020/21) as well as enhancing provision at other prisons with significant Parole Board caseloads. Since September, we have deployed over 70 video units in 11 court-facing prisons. We plan to deploy 64 new video points at 22 prisons before Christmas, and we have provisional plans for a further 160+ at 34 establishments in January 2021. These plans for deployment are heavily dependent upon the prevailing COVID-19 situation and securing continued access to prisons to carry out surveys, enabling work and installations. Our supply chain also faces similar challenges, so timescales are subject to change. Key Documents Prison Video for Official Consultations