From left to right: Gayle Kaufmann (Apex), Lauren McDonald (Apex), Audrey Mooney (HMP Aberdeen), Dan Gunn (SPS), Stuart Campbell (HMP Peterhead), John Morrison (HMP Aberdeen)
Distance will be no obstacle to North East families visiting their loved ones in custody following the launch of a new state-of-the-art pilot service in Aberdeen.
Ahead of the opening of the new community-facing HMP & YOI Grampian in early March 2014, the Scottish Prison Service, in partnership with Apex Scotland, will use video link technology providing prisoners’ families in the North East with ‘virtual’ visits.
Based in the Aberdeen office of Apex Scotland, the service went live on Monday 13 January and will be available to all families of offenders in Perth and Barlinnie prisons who would otherwise have been held within the recently closed HMP Peterhead and HMP Aberdeen.
Two rooms have been equipped within Apex to facilitate the project to ensure they are family-friendly, and visits will be offered in half hour slots. Evening sessions will also be available. The service is being funded by the Scottish Prison Service and existing video conferencing equipment from HMP Aberdeen has been efficiently used to create the service within the Apex base.
James Farish, Governor of HMP & YOI Grampian, said: “Keeping those in custody closer to their families and communities is going to be at the heart of the regime at HMP & YOI Grampian.
“We understand that the transitional period following the closure of HMPs Aberdeen and Peterhead will be a difficult time for families, given the distances involved in travelling for visits, and I’m delighted that we’re able to offer this alternative in partnership with Apex Scotland.
Helen Chamier-Tripp, Apex Grampian’s Service Development Manager, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the SPS in this exciting new initiative. As an organisation who work closely with offenders, ex-offenders and young people at risk of offending, we fully understand the importance of maintaining meaningful contact with family and friends while in prison and realise that family contact and support is high on the list of factors helping to reduce offending behaviour.
“We are looking forward to working with the families to make the experience as positive as possible and Apex Scotland is committed to ensuring this new service is successful and useful to all who use it.”
An information leaflet for visitors can be downloaded from the SPS website.