Keeping in touch

Video calls

Video calls are available for prisoners and their families/contacts.

Each video call is usually 30 minutes in duration. At the moment, to ensure that everyone gets an opportunity to have one, some prisons are restricting calls to one per month. Four people can be on the call, but the lead caller must be over 18 years old.

The costs of the video calls are free during the coronavirus pandemic.

You need to use one of 2 apps to have a video call with someone in prison. The app you need to use will depend on the prison.

To find out which app is used by the prison you wish to call, please visit the relevant GOV.UK page for individual prisons or for a north east prison, please see the relevant page on our site HERE.

The first step is to then download the app being used at the prison. 

Purple Visits: Families and friends of prisoners at HMP Northumberland can access the service by downloading the “Purple Visits” app on their smartphone or tablet – the rest of the instructions are clear from the app. Details on how to get started are HERE. 

Prison Video: Over the next few months, most prisons will start using a new system called Prison Video. In the north east, this service is now used by HMP Durham, Holme House, Kirklevington, Low Newton, Deerbolt and Frankland. This means that you will need to use the Prison Video app on your phone or tablet device to have a video call with someone in prison. Details on the new service and how to get started are available on the Prisoners Families website HERE You can also find out more about the new service on the website HERE.

If you have any questions about video calls please ring the prison visitors' centre. 


If a prisoner is unconvicted, they are allowed to send out two free letters every week. If a prisoner is convicted, they can send out one free letter every week, the stamps are paid for by the prison. Prisoners can send out as many letters as they like at their own expense. Normally, there is no limit to how many letters someone in prison can receive.

Telephone calls

PIN phones are now used in all prisons instead of phone cards. This means each prisoner is given a PIN number which he or she must key in before making each call. Prisoners may be asked to complete a form to select telephone numbers for family, friends and legal contacts, and the list has to be agreed by the prison. Outside the high security prisons and depending upon the category of a prisoner, it may be possible to make telephone calls to family, friends and legal contacts without having the number agreed beforehand.

The system works on a credit basis. Prisoners can buy credit from the prison shop and the cost of phone calls made is deducted automatically from their PIN account.

Families interested in exploring lower cost phone calls can also consider the options provided by prisonvoicemail or alternative providers. 
***Please check that this is available at the prison you are visiting first***

Email a prisoner

Email a Prisoner enables you to send messages to prisoners in selected prisons from any computer, without any of the hassles of writing and posting a letter.

North East prisons which support the Email a Prisoner scheme are Northumberland, Durham, Holme House, Low Newton, Kirlevington Grange, Deerbolt and Frankland.

The message is delivered to the prison within seconds so that it can be delivered to the prisoner by the prison staff in the next delivery.

Once a member of the scheme you will be able to send a message to your friend or family member in prison provided you know their prisoner number from just 40 pence per message.

It is worth checking the Email a Prisoner website to see if the prison allows the prisoner to reply and also if you are allowed to attach photos to your email. 


Use E-postman to send letters electronically to the person you know - and for them to be able to quickly reply to you.

This service allows families and friends to easily stay in contact with those who have been incarcerated. It provides an efficient and cost effective way to send letters to the person you know - and for them to be able to quickly reply to you.

This service is only available at some prisons. Please ask in the visitors’ centre to find out if it is available at the prison you are visiting.

Find out more at