More than 800 virtual visits have taken place between prisoners and their families and friends in the north-east.
Virtual visits were introduced alongside the provision of mobile phones with appropriate safeguards by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) earlier this year, to ensure prisoners could stay connected to their loved ones despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Newly published figures, which cover the period until the end of November, have shown that between June and November, there were 838 visits that took place virtually at HMP Grampian in Peterhead.
Mobile phones were also given out which had a pre-approved family and friends list which allowed prisoners to maintain contact and strong family network, which is hoped will reduce the likelihood of re-offending and aid resettlement into the community.
It also benefits children affected by parental imprisonment.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The decision to suspend in-persons visiting was a difficult but necessary one to help reduce the spread of the virus in the vulnerable setting of prisons and to protect the health and safety of prison and NHS staff, as well as those in custody.
“Video-conferencing technology and mobile phones have provided a vital lifeline for inmates, but one that involved a lot of detailed work to overcome a variety of legal, logistical and technological barriers. While in-person visiting has resumed, both forms of remote communication will continue to help maintain contact with loved-ones in the face of continuing uncertainty and challenges caused by the virus.
“The successful roll-out of video-conferencing and mobile technologies is testament to the hard work and dedication of SPS management and staff and part of this Government’s wider commitment to maintaining, safe, stable prison regimes – where conditions are conducive to and supportive of successful rehabilitation.
“That broader approach to penal policy has helped drive down the country’s re-conviction rate to its lowest level since comparable records began. And of course, less re-offending has contributed to keeping crime down and communities safe.”
Teresa Medhurst, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service said: “The value of maintaining family links while in custody is widely known to be a fundamental element of rehabilitation and the provision of virtual visits and telephones have proven to be critical in the ongoing and very challenging circumstances.
“The SPS continues to review ‘in person’ visits in the light of public health advice.
“Over the festive period and into the New Year the value of virtual visits and telephones is likely be of even greater value to all living in Scotland’s prisons than at any other time during this health crisis.”