Below, in alphabetical order, are some common questions received by insideinformation. This section only covers general questions and does not answer legal questions.
Answers are general and may not apply to all UK prisons; where there are exceptions we will try to flag them up. Answers are given in good faith but you should never act on answers without checking with appropriate authorities.
If you have a suggestion for a question please contact us.
Are prisoners allowed to smoke? View Answer
A prisoner is allowed to smoke in their own cell, but they aren’t allowed to smoke anywhere else inside the prison building.
A non-smoking prisoner doesn’t have to share a cell with a prisoner who smokes.
Bedding - Restrictions for sending in View Answer
At prisons where friends and family are allowed to buy bedding for prisoners (Post in, Hand in or send direct from supplier) there are now new restrictions on what types of bedding may be held in possession.
All bedding must meet a Fire Rating of at least 7 (crib 7). No bedding which fails to reach this standard will be allowed.
The supplier to the prison and canteen operator is L. Whittaker and Sons and this company is prepared to sell directly to friends and family. Their products fully meet the specification and are properly marked (so there will be no problems if prisoners are moved to another prison); they are competitively priced.
Before buying bedding for prisoners check with their prison to ensure you are allowed to provide it, and the best method of purchase.
If you wish to buy from Whittakers please telephone them for information (01706 758 358) or email them at email@example.com.
If you send in noncompliant items they will be placed in a prisoner's stored property or they will have to pay to send them back to you.
A better way to provide bedding might be to send them the money and allow them to buy it from the Canteen supplier.
Can a prisoner open a bank account? View Answer
Yes, a prisoner is allowed to open a basic bank account and their prison should help them to do so by providing a Personal Identification Document. This is needed because banks need proof of identity. Prisons should not charge for this.
The procedure is covered in a Prison Service Instruction PSI2011-044 which explains what type of account can be opened and the procedure, within the prison, for assisting the prisoner to open the account.
Prisoners covered by the Prisoners' Earnings Act 1996 are required to open a bank account.
Click Here to download PSI2011-044
Click Here to see the Personal Identification Document
Can a visitor be strip searched on a visit? View Answer
The answer is generally no.
All visitors may be rubbed down (women and children may only be rubbed down by a female officer) and ‘wanded’ or asked to walk through a metal detection arch. Visitors may be asked to remove outer clothing (Coat, Jacket, shoes etc). Staff may look in visitors' hair and ask them to open their mouth.
If staff think a person has concealed objects they can ask them to consent to a ‘full search’. the visitor doesn’t have to agree but if they refuse the visit may be refused or only a ‘closed visit’ granted.
If staff have reasonable suspicion that a visitor is concealing drugs or a weapon they may call the police who do have powers to search.
In general, going through 'security' for a prison visit is very much like the security at a domestic airport.
Can an ex-prisoner be called for jury service? View Answer
You may be asked to do jury service if you:
When you can’t be on a jury
There are some situations when you can’t be on a jury, including if you have:
Can I book a social visit by Email? View Answer
Some prisons have set up a system for booking social visits by email; you can check which ones by looking in our 'Visits' section.
Unfortunately the system of booking by Email has not been standardised amongst prisons offering the facility.
Information should be given on VOs (where they are used) or telephone the Booking Line to ask how the system works.
Inside Time is endeavouring to get information from each prison about the procedure used to book visits on-line.
Can I get help with the cost of visiting a prisoner? View Answer
If you are receiving benefits or are on a low income, you may be eligible to claim the cost of travel to prison visits from the Assisted Prison Visits Unit (APVU).
You must be:
Partners who were living with the prisoner, as a couple, in an established relationship immediately prior to imprisonment are eligible.
If you weren’t living together but have eligible children then you may qualify for help by acting as an escort to the child(ren). You should send in proof that the prisoner is the parent of the child(ren) with your first application form. If the prisoner’s name is on the birth certificate, this will serve as proof. If not, you can visit your local Registry Office who can provide assistance and the proper form.
The first time you claim, you will have to fill in a fairly detailed form giving information about yourself and the person you want to visit. APVU forms are available to download (see below) or at the prison, the prison visitors’ centre, the Probation Service, your local citizens’ advice bureau, many prisoners’ family support organisations or from the APVU itself.
You will not have to fill this form in every time you claim. APVU will send you a shorter repeat claim form with your payment to use for subsequent visits.
You can claim for one visit every 14 days up to a maximum of 26 a year. Claims must be made within 28 days of the date of the first visit.
If you need to apply before you visit, allow at least two weeks for the APVU to process your claim and send you the payment in time.
You must send all receipts/tickets and a confirmation of visit voucher to APVU for every visit that you make even if it is your last visit. Use the freepost envelopes that they send you (the confirmation of visit voucher is sent to you by APVU. It must be completed at the prison).
APVU will pay for travel to and from the prison by public transport or private motor vehicle. They will not pay for taxis unless the fare is less than the public transport alternative, there is no public transport available, or there is a medical reason which makes travel by taxi necessary (a note of confirmation from your doctor stating your inability to travel by public transport will be required).
If you are away from home for five hours or more, you can also claim a set meal allowance. Overnight allowances may be paid at the discretion of the APVU. You will need to write to them at least two weeks before the visit giving the reason why an overnight stay is necessary.
APVU will cover the cost of childminding if it is not appropriate for the children to visit, but the child minder must be registered with the local authority.
For more information and find out if you are eligible for help, contact the Assisted Prison Visits Unit:
Address: PO Box 2152, Birmingham B15 1SD
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 10.15 am to 11.45 am and 2.15 pm to 3.45 pm
Tel: 0845 300 1423
Text phone: 0845 304 0800
Fax: 0121 626 3474
Click Here to download an Information Book
Click Here to download a Claim Form
Click Here to download a Confirmation of Visit Form
Current rates payable are (October 2011):
Motor Car / Motor Cycle: 13p per mile
Light Refreshment Allowance (Subsistence)
Over 5 hour absence from home - £2.55
Over 10 hour absence from home - £5.10
London and the South East:
Adult £34 per night (maximum)
Child £17 per night (maximum)
Adult £28 per night (maximum)
Child £14 per night (maximum)
Travel cost between accommodation address and establishment - £16 (maximum single journey)
£40 per day (maximum all inclusive) plus 13 pence per mile
Rate paid should not normally exceed £3.75 per hour
Cars Provided Under the Motability Scheme
Excess miles charged by Motability Finance Ltd
12,001 - 14,999 miles - 5 pence per mile
15,000 - 19,999 miles - 8 pence per mile
20,000 miles and over - 10 pence per mile
32p per mile plus subsistence – probation/social services volunteer or similar
27p per mile plus subsistence - other (medical cases only)
Payment for a return journey between the home of an escort and visitor will not normally
Working and Child Tax Credit – Income Limit
The annual household income, as stated on the award notice, must not exceed £17,474
Information courtesy of the Assisted Prison Visits Unit
Can I read an Inspectorís Report on a prison? View Answer
Yes, anyone can read inspection reports for prisons in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The reports contain a snapshot of what inspectors found at the time they visited and their recommendations. Reports also carry the results of a survey amongst prisoners.
Can I read the prison reports on my son? View Answer
You have no right to read the reports of family members, they could, however, send copies to you.
You could fund a Data Protection Act Subject Access Request for copies of all documents held and the prisoner could direct that they are delivered to you. This currently costs £10.
Can I send photographs to a prisoner? View Answer
Yes, if they are a reasonable size. You can send proper photographs or digital prints.
Photographs may not be mounted or framed.
The photographs must not be obscene and, often, should not have any image of the prisoner (check with the prison).
If the photographs contain images of children you should state who they are in an accompanying letter.
Some prisoners who are deemed a 'risk to children' will not be allowed photographs of children unless they are their own children and not alleged victims.
Can I take a baby on a visit? View Answer
Yes, babies can be taken on prison visits.
Babies are subject to search.
The procedure for babies varies at different prisons; you will not normally be allowed to take a pushchair or carry cot into visits but some prisons will allow spare nappies and a baby bottle.
Generally a mother or father who is a prisoner should be allowed to hold the baby.
All prisons claim to have baby changing facilities; this is usually in the Visitors' centre but there may also be visitors' toilets in the visit room with similar facilities.
If you are taking a baby or very young children the length of a visit might be stressful for them so you might consider taking along another visitor with you who could take the children out of the Visit Room if they become bored or tired, allowing you to stay for the rest of the visit time.
Babies and young children do not normally need to be named on a VO (Check with the prison) and usually do not need independent identification (Check with prison).
There may be restrictions if the prisoner has been deemed to present a possible risk to children.
Children must be kept with parents and kept under full control at all times otherwise you may be asked to end your visit.
Can I telephone or email a prisoner? View Answer
For most UK prisons the answer is generally no.
Prisoners can telephone anyone once the numbers are cleared and put on their PIN phone system but incoming calls are not generally allowed.
Using the Email a Prisoner service it is now possible to email a letter to a prisoner in a large number of UK prisons. Prisoners cannot email back.
Click Here to sign up for Email a Prisoner
Can my son be moved to a prison nearer home? View Answer
Prisoners have no ‘right’ to be transferred but they should be in a prison as near as possible to home.
If you think there is a nearer prison which is suitable (right category etc) then you could suggest to the prisoner that they apply for a transfer on the grounds that the prison is nearer to facilitate easier family contact. If they have a solicitor this is something that they might be able to assist with.
Can photographs be taken in a prison? View Answer
There is a general rule which does not allow any photography within a prison. However, under certain circumstances limited photographs may be taken - al though this would usually be done by the prison and the photographs given to the prisoner(there will be a charge for this).
In response to a letter to Inside Time (December 2013) NOMS gave the following answer:
'A memo from the Acting Director of Public Sector Prisons was sent to all Governors in July this year that stated that the suspension on the taking of photographs was lifted. As such, I can confirm that there are circumstances or occasions where the taking of photographs within the prison is permitted; these are listed below for your information:
It is worthy of note that such photographs are not permitted to be passed outside the prison to any third parties and that they are for the individual prisoners possession only.'
If a prisoner would like a photograph taken he/she should place a wing application.
Does my son have to stay in a hostel on release? View Answer
Almost all prisoners are released ‘on licence’ and part of the licence conditions is that they will reside at an address as directed by the Probation Service (England). If the Probation Service insist on a hostel then the person would need to challenge this before release.
If they are directed to stay at a hostel and live elsewhere they are liable for recall.
Drugs Dogs - my child is scared of dogs View Answer
Most prisons use 'passive drugs dogs' (usually spaniels).
The dogs are trained to walk past people and sit down if they smell anything suspicious. The dogs will not jump up or otherwise interact.
Usually the visitor just stands still as the dog walks past.
If your child is very frightened you should advise staff beforehand.
You should not attempt to pat or fuss the dogs.
How do I complain about healthcare in prison? View Answer
NHS England is now responsible for commissioning healthcare for all prisons in England and Wales.
When to raise a formal complaint
If you have tried to resolve your complaint at local level and this has failed, you can register an official complaint to NHS England via the complaints manager. You have several options for doing this:
PO Box 16738
With ‘For the attention of the complaints manager’ in the subject line.
0300 311 22 33
(Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, excluding English Bank Holidays)
They will take a note of your complaint and arrange for it to be passed to the complaints manager.
What you need to provide
Provide as much information as possible to allow NHS England to investigate your complaint. Include some or all of the following:
NHS England aim to respond to all complaints within 20 working days. If they are unable to reply within this time they will let you know and provide a realistic estimate of when you can expect a reply.
Information supplied by NHS England
How do I complain to a prison? View Answer
You may wish to complain about a number of different areas.
If your complaint is about the treatment a prisoner is receiving it is better if they persue a complaint through the formal prison complaint channels. There is lots of information about how to do this in prisons.
Should you still be unhappy then you could write to the governing governor (you can find out who this is by looking on our 'Regime' page for the relevant prison. You should keep your letter polite and to the point and provide full details of the prisoner and what you think is wrong with their treatment. Keep copies of all letters and send them by recorded delivery. It is good to indicate a timespan in which you expect to receive a reply - 14 days should be adequate.
If you are unhappy about your reply, or fail to receive one, then write to the CEO of the Prison Service (currently Michael Spurr) at Prison Headquarters.
If your complaint is about how you have been treated on a visit then it is best to raise it immediately either with Visit Centre staff or ask to speak to the duty governor. Again, if you are unhappy you should write to the governing governor (as above).
If your complaint is about post or telephone calls, or lost property or money sent in, you should, again, write to the governing governor giving as much information as possible.
You could also contact the prison IMB (Write to IMB at the prison address). You might also want the Chief Inspector of Prisons to be aware of any concerns you have. He cannot act on individual cases but does use such information when conducting inspections.
The prisoner's solicitors may be able to help with prison related issues and you could try writing to either your local MP or the MP for the constituency which the prison is in (you can find this on the 'Regime' page for each prison.
How do I contact a prison? View Answer
The best way to contact a prison is to write a letter and address it to the ‘Governing Governor’ (or 'Director' if it's a private prison). You can personalise it with their name (these are given in our ‘Regime’ section).
You cannot email a prison directly (except to book a visit at those which have email booking in place).
If the letter is about something very important consider sending it by Recorded Delivery.
Always keep a copy of letters and never send original documents.
How do I contact a prisoner in an emergency? View Answer
In an emergency call the main prison switchboard number (see our ‘Regime’ section). Explain what the emergency is and they will put you through to the right person.
You will not normally be allowed to speak directly to the prisoner but a message will be passed on (in emergencies only).
If the matter is very personal or involves a bereavement it may well be that the prison chaplaincy will get involved and possibly contact you and speak with the prisoner.
How do I Email a prison? View Answer
It is not possible to Email a prison directly except in the case of booking a social or legal visit (at prisons where this is enabled).
The best way to contact a prison is by letter, or, if the matter is urgent, by telephone to their main switchboard number.
How do I find a prisoner if I donít know what prison they are in? View Answer
The Prison Service have a Prisoner Location Service. You must know the person’s full name; information such as date of birth or prison number may help also.
You can write to them at:
Prisoner Location Service, PO Box 2152, Birmingham, B15 1SD
or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Click Here to apply on-line
If they find the prisoner they will seek their consent before providing you with any information.
How do I send money to a prisoner? View Answer
Prisons encourage the use of Postal Orders but you can also send a cheque. Cheques may take up to 15 days to clear and be paid to the prisoner. Some Scottish prisons allow visitors to pay in money for prisoners during a visit.
For public prisons in England, cheques and POs should be made payable to HMPS. The prisoner’s full name and number plus the sender’s details should be written on the back.
For privatised prisons you should check in the ‘Additional Information’ section, on our website, in the ‘Regime’ entry for the specific prison as they all vary.
In Scotland the prisoner should check with their prison as, again, the system is variable.
It is best not to send more than £50 in one go and always keep a record of cheque or PO numbers. Send a letter to the prisoner, with the money, explaining that money has been included.
Sending money from abroad
Foreign currency cheques can be sent in the same way as ordinary cheques. The Prison Service bank will convert these to Sterling at the current rates but there is a £12.50 (Sept 2011) commission charge levied by the bank. After conversion the money is debited to the prisoner in the normal way.
As an alternative to sending a cheque it is possible to send an International Money Order or a Foreign Bankers Draft.
(Information courtesy of NOMS)
How do I write to a prisoner? View Answer
To write to a prisoner you generally need to know their full name and prison number, and which prison they are in.
All letters are opened and may be read by prison staff.; they may also be seen by other prisoners if the prisoner keeps them so do not include any personal details or private information.
Write a normal letter, including your name and address. The letter must not be obscene, contain threats, discuss or identify alleged victims, staff or other prisoners.
Letters can be of reasonable length but should not contain anything other than the letter except: A cheque of Postal Order, if you want to send money, or photographs.
Letters can be in any language but if they are not in English they may be delayed because the prison may want to read them and have them translated.
You should ensure you put sufficient postage on the envelope.
If you do not know the prisoner's number then use their full name; alternatively put your envelope in another envelope addressed to the Governor with a covering letter asking them to ensure it goes to the right prisoner.
Do not put perfume or stickers on the letter or envelope.
If you send greetings cards these should be simple ones without padding or items stuck on. Musical ones are not allowed. You can enclose a letter with the card. It is not a good idea to write your address on the card; if you are sending it without a letter use a Post-It note for your details.
Click Here to download a full Prison Service Instruction which sets out the rules relating to letters and telephones.
How does a prisoner write to an MP? View Answer
A prisoner is free to write to their MP, MSP or members of Assemblies about any matter.
They can either write to the MP in whose constituency the prison is located or write to their home MP.
You can find who the MP is for any prison by looking in our ‘Regime’ section for the specific prison.
Letters to MPs (not social letters) are covered by ‘Confidential Access’ - prisoners seal the envelope before posting it and staff are not normally allowed to see the letter or any reply. They write ‘Confidential Access’ on the envelope.
Click Here for a full list of MPs/members of assemblies/Scottish and European Parliaments with their constituencies (Word.Doc)
How does a prisoner's family or friend make a complaint? View Answer
Depending on what the complaint is about and the seriousness of it, the prison governor is always the starting point.
The letter of complaint should set out all the points with dates and times.
Keep a copy of all letters and, if the matter is serious, send all letters by Recorded Delivery.
If you are unsatisfied with the response you can write to the Prison Service CEO (Michael Spurr) at Prison Service headquarters.
I can't get through on the Visit Booking number! View Answer
Visit Booking numbers can get quite busy and it is very frustrating having to keep phoning.
If you have called a number of times and not got through, and cannot book by email, try phoning the main switchboard number and ask them to check that the booking line is open and operational.
If problems persist you should consider writing a letter of complaint to the Governing Governor (or Director, if it's a private prison).
Our website provides times advised to us by NOMS of when booking lines are open but staff might be off sick or transferred to other duties; or the times might have been recently changed. If you do spot any discrepancies in our published times please contact us.
I have a religious objection to being 'rubbed down' by a female View Answer
Normally visitors are rubbed down by a person of the same sex (except young children are usually searched by a female officer).
Male visitors would normally be searched by a male officer but the rules allow for men to be searched by a female officer.
You have the right to object to a female officer searching you and should advise the staff that this is not acceptable and you will then be searched by a male officer.
You should not feel nervous or disinclined to object; the prison staff understand and comply with strict diversity rules and will accommodate your objection.
I have just been released from prison; how do I find a doctor or dentist? View Answer
The easiest way, if you have access to the Internet, is to go to NHS Choices at http://www.nhs.uk.
If you select ‘Healthcare near you’ you can choose from a variety of services and, by adding your postcode, you can get a list of health services in your area.
Alternatively you could look in Yellow Pages or a similar directory under ‘Doctors’ or ‘Dentists’.
If you are in a hostel then the hostel staff should be able to direct you to local services.
I wish to visit but donít have any ID View Answer
The Prison Service understands the problems people sometimes have with providing identification and they publish a list of acceptable types. If you still cannot comply with what they ask for you should write to the Governing Governor, explaining the problem and suggesting what you might be able to supply, and ask for their advice and assistance.
For English prisons the current published list of Acceptable ID is:
One form of identification that contains a photograph of you. This could be a Passport, Driving Licence or one of the other suggestions in List 1. A second form of identification is often also required which shows your address. This ID must be current and original (not copied or printed from the Internet): it should show your name and address. Some suggestions are given in List 2. If you cannot provide ID with a photograph then most prisons will accept two or more items from List 2.
Often the prison prints a list of required ID on the reverse of VOs. If in doubt telephone the prison switchboard number in advance of your visit for instructions and advice.
• Citizens Card (application forms are available from the Visitors Centre)
• Driving Licence with Photo Card.
• EC Identity Card.
• Employers or Student ID Card.
• National Union of Students Card.
• Passport, including foreign Passport and time expired Passports.
• Photo bearing Trade Union Card
• Photo Benefits Card.
• Rail or Bus Pass Photo Travel Card.
• Senior Citizens public transport pass issued by a local authority.
• Validate UK
• Young Persons Proof of Age Card.
• Benefit Book
• Birth / Marriage Certificate
• Cheque Book with Guarantee Card OR Credit Card
• Council Tax bill
• Employers pass or ID
• Foreign Identity or Resident's Card.
• ID Card from a recognised Prison Visitors Organisation
• Library Card with signature
• Student ID Card
• Trade Union or Student Union Card
• Utility Bills (Gas, Electric, Water and Home Telephone, with address - counts as one).
Where appropriate, staff may ask for a specimen signature from the Visitor to compare to that on any signature bearing ID, failure or refusal to provide a signature will result in the visit being refused.
Staff retain the discretion to accept any other forms of identification, singly or in a combination that clearly identifies the Visitor in a satisfactory way.
My son is being bullied in prison, what can I do? View Answer
Most prisons have a dedicated anti-bullying and anti-drugs hotline: this is usually advertised on Visiting Orders and in the Visitors’ Centre.
Failing this you should write to the Governor of the prison explaining who you are and the full details of the prisoner being bullied and what has been happening. Keep copies of your letters.
It is always best to write to a prison rather than telephoning because a letter is more likely to get to the person most able to deal with the problem.
Registering a birth if the father's in prison View Answer
There are va number of possibilities:
1. If the couple are married the wife can register the baby herself and providing copy of marriage certificate.
2. If they are not married the mother can register the birth and when the father is released they can collect a form from any registrars office in England or Wales and re-register the birth with the father present. Or
3. The mother can collect a statutory declaration form from the registrar and get it signed and witnessed by a solicitor - this however can be costly.
If in doubt contact your local registrar who can advise you in more detail.
What are your rights when arrested? View Answer
If you're kept in custody
The custody officer must tell you why you're being held and explain your rights
The custody officer at the police station must tell you why you're being held and explain what your rights are. Your rights are to:
How long you can be held
The police can’t normally hold you for more than 24 hours without charging you with a crime. If you are suspected of committing a serious crime (for example, murder), the period in custody can be extended by:
After this time, the police must either charge you or release you.
Before the police ask you any questions, they have to warn you what can happen if you decide not to answer. This is called the ‘police caution’. The police caution is:
’You do not have to say anything. However, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.’
While at the police station, you have the right to free legal advice.
Information courtesy of DirectGov
Click Here for more detailed information
What can I send in to a prisoner? View Answer
This varies with every prison and changes frequently so Inside Time does not carry this information.
You can send money by cheque or Postal Order (see individual prison information - 'Regimes/Additional Information' for prison specific information about sending money) - prisons ask you not to send cash. Cheques take about a week to get into the prisoner's account. If you are sending money from abroad you can use an International Money Order. If you send an IMO which is not in Pounds Sterling there may be a charge (currently around £12.50) to convert this to Pounds.
Many prisons now do not allow stamps to be sent to prisoners but you can send a reasonable number of stamped addressed envelopes (addressed to yourself) which the prisons must give to the prisoner.
If you send something in which a prisoner is not allowed to have this is placed into his 'stored property' which moves round with him and which he collects on release; alternatively the prisoner is allowed to send the item(s) back to the sender although he has to pay the postage.
What can be sent in varies by type of prison and, also, the status of the prisoner.
Remand prisoners can usually have clothing and other items sent in (and sometimes handed in) where convicted prisoners cannot. Remand Prisoners can usually have clothing swapped (for example dirty for clean).
The situation in Scotland is different; where a prisoner applies for a Proforma, sends that to a visitor who can then hand the property listed on the Proforma in on a visit.
Prisoners should ask for the Property Lists (also called a Facilities List) for their prison which lists what property a prisoner can have and how they can acquire it. They can send out a copy of this list; or the relative or friend could write to the prison and ask for a copy (this is covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000).
Click Here for an example of a Property List.
NOTE: These lists are different for each prison and change frequently.
What does a prison do with the photo/fingerprint they take when I visit? View Answer
Inside Time asked the Information Commissioner’s Office this question and the answer was that the ‘biometric’ information collected can only be used for the purpose for which it was taken (ie visits), must be kept secure and not used for any other purpose.
After a prisoner moves or is released it must be destroyed or deleted within a reasonable amount of time.
Biometric data would not be shared with another prison so it would need to be taken again at the new prison.
What happens about medication when a person goes to prison? View Answer
If a prisoner is already taking medication before they go into prison, they:
Depending what medication it is, the prisoner may be able to keep it with them in their cell.
Prisoners are excempt from paying for prescriptions/medications.
Prisoners cannot usually buy 'over the counter' medications but have to see a doctor to acquire any treatments they need.
Some prisons allow prisoners to buy paracetamol.
What happens if a prisoner is ill? View Answer
Prisoners get the same healthcare and treatment as anyone outside of prison.
Many prisons have NHS healthcare but some now have healthcare provided by private companies.
A prisoner can apply to see the doctor, dentist, optician and other healthcare professionals. These people come into the prison regularly from outside.
Treatment is free but has to be approved by a prison doctor or member of the healthcare team.
Prisons don’t have hospitals, but many have in-patient beds for prisoners who are too ill to remain on a prison wing or need constant medical attention or supervision.
Most problems can be dealt with by the healthcare team. If they can’t, the prison may:
get an expert to visit the prison or arrange for treatment in an outside hospital.
The healthcare team can ask the prisoner’s family doctor for their records, but only if the prisoner agrees to it.
Prisoners should have access to all normal treatments and medications and, should they be unhappy with their treatment, can complain in the same way as normal members of the public.
Special help and support
Prisoners can get specialist support - eg if they:
Refusing medical treatment
A prisoner can refuse treatment. However, the healthcare team may consider giving treatment anyway if the prisoner isn’t capable of making decisions themselves (eg they have a mental health condition). Wherever possible, the healthcare team will discuss this with the prisoner’s family first.
What happens if a prisoner is pregnant? View Answer
If someone is expecting a baby, they usually have to stay in ‘normal’ prison accommodation for as long as possible before the birth.
Arrangements are made for the prisoner to give birth in a maternity hospital nearest to the prison.
Women who give birth in prison can keep their baby for the first 18 months in a mother and baby unit.
A prisoner with a child under 18 months old can apply to bring take their child to prison with them.
Social Services arrange for children over 18 months to be cared for, eg by the prisoner’s parents, or fostering.
Applying for a place in a Mother and Baby Unit
The prisoner can apply for a space in a mother and baby unit when they enter prison.
An admissions board will decide if it’s the best thing for the child.
If there are no places in the prison the mother first goes to, they may be offered a place in another unit.
If there are no spaces in any unit, arrangements must be made for the child to be cared for outside prison.
If the mother is refused a place they can appeal - the prison will explain how.
Separation plans are made when the mother enters prison if the child will reach 18 months before her sentence is over.
Prisons with Mother and Baby Units
Holloway (takes children up to 9 months)
What is a BOSS Chair? View Answer
What is a Suspended Sentence? View Answer
If you get a ‘suspended’ prison sentence you don’t go to prison immediately, but serve your sentence in the community. You have to meet certain conditions, which could include:
If you break any conditions, or commit another crime, you will go to prison to serve your sentence unless there are exceptional circumstances.
What is a VO? View Answer
A VO or ‘Visiting Order’ is required at most prisons for someone to visit a convicted prisoner.
Usually the prisoner fills in a VO with the details of who they want to visit and send this to one of the visitors. The visitor then telephones the prison’s visit booking number and books a visit on a convenient day.
Remand prisoners do not usually need a VO but check with the prison.
In some prisons, especially lower category (C/D) ones, the prisoner books the visit internally and then informs the visitor of the arrangements.
In Scotland it is usually the case that the prisoner books the visit.
The VO has important information on it which new visitors should read. Only people named on the VO will be allowed to visit. You must take the VO with you otherwise you may be refused admission.
What is Prison Video Link? View Answer
This is a special system that allows prisoners to ‘appear’ in court without leaving the prison. The prisoner can see the court and the court can see the prisoner.
It can also be used for solicitors to have conferences with prisoners without the need for a visit.
For the purpose of PVL prisons have special suites.
A case held using PVL is the same as if the prisoner was there.
What is the definition of 'Close Relative'? View Answer
In relation to correspondence between prisoners and others the definition of 'Close Relative' is set out in PSI 2011-049 'Prisoner Communication Services' and is described thus:
"A close relative is defined as a spouse/partner (including a person - whether of the same or different sex - with whom the prisoner was living as a couple in an established relationship immediately prior to imprisonment) parent, child, brother, sister (including half or step-brothers and sisters), grandparent, civil partner, fiancé or fiancée, or a person who has been acting in loco parentis to a prisoner, or a person to whom the prisoner has been in loco parentis i.e. where they have had/have parental responsibility for that person. Those who have clearly demonstrated the intention to register a civil partnership with the prisoner but have not yet done so may also be included within this definition of close relative for the purposes of correspondence.'
Click Here to download the full PSI
Which prisons have Mother & Baby Units? View Answer
Holloway (takes children up to 9 months)
Who can a prisoner write to under Confidential Access? View Answer
Under Confidential Access arrangements prisoners can write to the following:
• Bar Council;
• Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR);
• Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC);
• Embassy or Consular Officials;
• Healthcare Commission;
• Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP);
• Law Society;
• Members of European Parliament (MEP);
• Members of Parliament (MP)(only when acting in a parliamentary capacity);
• Members of the National Assembly for Wales (AM);
• Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS);
• Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman;
• Official Solicitor;
• Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (PCA);
• Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO);
Letters can be sent sealed without any examination and incoming mail should not be opened.
December 2013 Headlines
> Ending violence against women and girls
> Too many Category A prisoners
> Time to close the digital divide between prisons and community
> Prisoners for profit
> The doctor will see you now
> When the smoke clears
> Incentives and Earned Privileges
> The case of Stephen Keogh
> From over the wall
> Wish You Were Here
> Month by Month December 2013
> Support for people with a learning disability or learning difficulties
> Prison Widower
> Manifestly excessive
> The end of justice
> Legal aid changes
> Judicial Review
> Avoiding the POCA gravy train
> The effect of confiscation orders on categorisation
> Murder by more than one
> Christmas Messages
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