Lockdown in Prison

If you think it’s been awkward coping with the lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, spare a thought for those held in Peterborough prison.  Face to face contact with their families came to an end when all visits were suspended on 24th March 2020.  FOPP volunteering activities were suspended at roughly the same time and the normal education regime and access to the libraries also stopped.  This meant that there were far fewer opportunities for residents to leave their wings or even their cells. 

The strict lockdown remained in place until late July, but arrangements were made to allow restricted social visits to resume from Monday 27th July 2020.  Alongside these physical visits, a video calling scheme known as Purple Visits was introduced in August. 

Further restrictions came into force when the second period of national lockdown applied in England during November.  When this ended on 2nd December 2020, social visits were re-instated except for would-be visitors living in the newly-designated tier 3 areas of the country.  However, a relaxation of the national rules over the Christmas period was reflected in the prison by permitting visits from those living in tier 3 areas.

On 18th December 2020 the prison was deemed to be in a Tier 3 area.  Only two days later it was placed under Tier 4 restrictions.

On Wednesday 6th January 2021 a national lockdown was re-introduced.

In February 2021 the prison suffered a serious Covid outbreak.

Expand the items below for full details.


Following speculation in the local press, an official Sodexo website announcement on 23rd February 2021 confirmed that they were managing an outbreak of Covid-19 on the male side of the prison.  Few specific details were given other than that a very restricted regime and mass testing had been introduced.  It also confirmed that vaccination of residents was proceeding on the same basis as for those in the wider community. 

It was also confirmed that the female side of the prison was unaffected by Covid at this time.  Precautionary measures had been put in place with all staff wearing PPE throughout the establishment, together with regular staff testing.

On Wednesday 6th January 2021, the UK began a second period of national lockdown, with everyone required to stay at home so far as possible.  No further changes to the operation of the prison were necessary as it had only recently been placed under national Tier 4 restrictions.

The official prison website confirmed this morning that the prison is now subject to national Tier 4 restrictions.  Accordingly, all social visits are now suspended until further notice.  The announcement stated:

We anticipate that this will have minimal impact on the regime that we are currently providing for our residents, including access to physical exercise, work activity, education and small faith groups on the wings. Our partner organisations continue to support residents, in accordance with their own organisational arrangements and decisions. Our peer workers remain active, providing essential support to residents. Essential medical appointments, transfers and court appearances will continue to be facilitate.

On 18th December 2020, the prison, along with the rest of Peterborough, moved into the highest level of Covid-19 Tier 3 restrictions.  The prison issued the following statement on their website:

From Saturday 19 December to Monday 04 January, we will be able to offer social visits for compassionate reasons. Existing restrictions will remain in place, including the requirement for the visitor to wear a face covering at all times and that no physical contact is permitted.

After 04 January, all social visits will unfortunately have to be suspended, in line with Tier 3 restrictions. We continue to offer Purple Visits video calls for residents and provide additional credit on their PIN phone accounts, helping to maintain essential family contact.

The Sodexo official prison website gave details on Thursday 10th December of the revised arrangements for social visits over the Christmas period, including the possibility of visits from those living in tier 3 areas, who were previously excluded.

An announcement on the Sodexo official prison website on Tuesday 2nd December gives details of the re-instatement of social visits following the second period of national lockdown that has just ended. The announcement explains that visits from people living in a tier 3 area will not be permitted.

An announcement on the Sodexo official prison website on Monday 9th November announced another suspension of social visits during the period of national lockdown that is due to end on 2nd December. The announcement makes clear that legal visits can continue, as can visits by certain partner agencies.  It also states that some social visits might be authorised during this period on compassionate grounds.

An announcement on the Sodexo official prison website on Monday 5th October relayed a message from Phil Copple, Director General of Prisons, explaining how the tighter restrictions in some parts of the country will not immediately change the operation of social visits in prisons. 

An announcement on the Sodexo official prison website on Monday 17th August gave details of the introduction of a video calling scheme to keep residents in touch with their families.  The scheme will be known as Purple Visits. 

An announcement on the Sodexo official prison website on Wednesday 15th July outlined the arrangements for resuming social visits to residents as from Monday 27th July.  Full details of how visits will be managed can be found on the Sodexo Visiting The Prison page.

Today, (15th June 2020), the Director of HMP Peterborough, Damian Evans, has posted an open letter on their website to the families and friends of residents currently held there.  It refers to the Covid-19 National Framework for Prison Regimes and Services, which can be viewed as the next item, below.  You can view the prison website here.