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HMP BELMARSH Prison Regime Info


Western Way Thamesmead SE28 0EB image of HMP BELMARSH prison

Phone No.

020 8331 4400

Governor / Director

Phil Wragg


High Security



Operational Capacity


Cell Occupancy

Single, double and multiple

Listener Scheme


First Night Centre



Chair: Carole Homan
Vice Chair: Fiona Neale and Hilary Powell

Visitor Info Page

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Belmarsh became operational in April 1991, and is a local prison holding remand and sentenced male prisoners, primarily serving the Central Criminal Court and magistrates’ Courts in SE London and Crown and Magistrates’ Courts in SW Essex. Belmarsh has a dual role and also holds Category ‘A’ prisoners. It has a mixture of approximately 60% multi-occupancy cells and 40% single cells, distributed across four, three storey, residential units; each with three spurs of 42 cells.


It is a local prison but combines those functions with those of a high security establishment and also holds 'A' cat. prisoners. It primarily serves the Central Criminal Court and Magistrates’ Courts in South East London and parts of Essex, as well as holding high security risk prisoners on remand and awaiting trial.

Belmarsh opened in April 1991 and was the first adult male prison to be
built in London since Wormwood Scrubs in 1874. It occupies 60 acres on
the old Ministry of Defence Woolwich Arsenal site in South East London, 47
acres of which are inside the one-mile circumference of the perimeter wall.

A mixture of approximately 60% multi occupancy cells and 40% single cells, distributed mainly across 4 residential units.

There are four residential house blocks:

  • House block one : Holding prisoners serving one year or over.
  • House block two : Holding prisoners with one year or less left to serve.
  • House block three: Holding induction prisoners, remand and also the vulnerable prisoners overflow.
  • House block four : Holding vulnerable prisoners, drug-free spur and remand prisoners.
  • High security unit

Reception Criteria
In common with all other local prisons, Belmarsh accepts a wide variety of categories of prisoners, in addition to its commitment to the Category A estate.


  • In-cell power
  • Own clothes
  • Television (£1 per week)

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Mon: 07:30 - 12:30 & 13:30 - 17:00
Tue: 07:30 - 12:30 & 13:30 - 17:00
Wed: 07:30 - 12:30 & 13:30 - 17:00
Thu: 07:30 - 12:30 & 13:30 - 17:00
Fri: 07:30 - 12:30 & 13:30 - 17:00
Sat: 08:30 - 12:30 & 13:30 - 17:30
Sun: 08:30 - 12:30 & 13:30 - 17:30



Mon: 17:45 - 20:30
Tue: 17:45 - 20:30
Wed: 17:45 - 20:30
Thu: 17:45 - 20:30
Sat: 09:30 - 11:45 & 13:45 - 16:30
Sun: 09:30 - 11:45 & 13:45 - 16:30

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The gymnasium staff work in partnership with Charlton Athletic Football Club to deliver F.A. accredited coaching courses qualifying prisoners to become coaches post release.

Sports available include;

  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Circuit Training
  • Light Circuit Training
  • Over 40s
  • Over 50s
  • Remedial
  • Soft Tennis
  • Sports Field
  • Volleyball
  • Weight Loss Programme
  • Weight Training

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3 sessions of 20 minutes per week.

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Every prison has a Chaplaincy department managed by a Co-ordinating Chaplain and supported by admin staff, other Chaplains and ‘Sessional Chaplains’ (faith leaders who visit for specific services or sessions). The Chaplaincy is considered an important part of the prison structure. When a prisoner arrives at a prison they are usually seen by a Chaplain within 24 hours and are invited to register as a specific religion (if they haven’t already done so) and can change their declared religion at any time.

The Chaplaincy does far more than just pastoral care; they often are able to lend radios, musical instruments and typewriters; they may take part in Sentence Planning and are available as a ‘listening ear’ and are able, sometimes, to help with domestic problems. Most Chaplaincies run various courses and activities which may or may not have a religious theme. Every prisoner has the right to follow their religious practices and attend Chapel for services pertaining to their declared faith (even when segregated).

The Chaplaincy are able to organise faith activities for all main religions (as recognised by the Prison Service; this does not, at present include Rastafarian as a specific religion) and contact faith representatives to visit individual or groups of prisoners for the purpose of religious activities. The chaplaincy can also intercede on matters of religious dress, diet and artefacts. A full list of permitted artefacts can be found in the Glossary Section under Religious Artefacts.

You can contact the Chaplaincy by letter or by telephoning the main prison number and asking to speak to the Chaplaincy. The Chaplaincy works as part of the prison and cannot, therefore, guarantee confidentiality (they can explain this to you in detail). Prisoners can contact the Chaplaincy in person or by Application.

Chaplaincy Statement of Purpose (HMPS)
The Chaplaincy is committed to serving the needs of prisoners, staff and religious traditions by engaging all human experience. We will work collaboratively, respecting the integrity of each tradition and discipline. We believe that faith and the search for meaning directs and inspires life, and are committed to providing sacred spaces and dedicated teams to deepen and enrich human experience. We contribute to the care of prisoners to enable them to lead law-abiding and useful lives in custody and after release.

The Co-ordinating Chaplain at Belmarsh is: Trevor Jacquet

Full-time Anglican, Catholic and Muslim Chaplains, Part time Free Church Chaplain.

Facilities for; Hindu, Jehovah Witness, Mormon, Pagan, Sikh

The prison can provide facilities for people of all faiths.

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Visiting Specialists

  • Dentist: 3 times a week
  • Optician: Fortnightly
  • Physio: Twice a week
  • Podiatry: Twice a month
  • Acupuncture : Weekly
  • Stop Smoking: As required
  • CPN: As required
  • InReach: As required


NHS Healthcare Information for Belmarsh

Prison Healthcare Manager: Tony Clark
Tel: 020 8331 4537


Healthcare Complaints
Healthcare provision in public prisons has transferred to NHS England who will commission ‘Offender Health Services’. This means that the method of complaint has changed. Inside Time have published a factsheet explaining the new process for making a complaint about healthcare in public prisons.
Prisoners should still follow the internal complaints procedure before making an official complaint to NHS England. The PALS system will no longer operate.
Click Here to download our Factsheet

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Kensington and Chelsea College
Hortensia Road, London SW19 0QS
Tel: 020 7573 3600

Career Information & Advice Services (CIAS)
Prospects Services Ltd
Prospects House, 19 Elmfield Road, Bromley, Kent BR1 1LT
Tel: 020 8315 1500

Classes include;

  • Art
  • Basic Education
  • Computer Studies
  • Cookery
  • Creative Writing
  • English
  • Language
  • Life and Social Skills
  • Literacy
  • Maths
  • Music
  • Numeracy
  • Open University



OFSTED inspect education establishments from schools to colleges to prisons. They inspect education facilities within prisons and have inspected HMP Belmarsh



Last Inspection Date: 28/07/2011

To read their report click here

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Employment and workshops include;

  • Bricklaying
  • Catering
  • Industrial Cleaning
  • Painting and Decorating
  • Plumbing
  • Sports Studies

Various PE/Gym/Sports qualifications

  • CITB Health & safety
  • CSCS Cards
  • BICS Industrial Cleaning
  • Various trade and vocational qualifications using OCN


Outside companies with contract to Prison Industries workshop (2009-2010)

Crofton Ltd - Printing work

Learning aims recorded for Skills Funding Agency OLASS

Adult Literacy
Adult Literacy (Entry 1, 2 and 3)
Adult Numeracy
Certificate for IT Users (CLAiT Plus)
Certificate for IT Users (New CLAiT)
Functional Skills English (QCF)
Functional Skills Mathematics (QCF)
Health and Safety at Work
ICT Skills for Life
Key Skills in Application of Number - level 3
Key Skills in Communication - level 1
Key Skills in Communication - level 2
Non-externally certificated - Level 1, Arts, Media and Publishing (SSA 9), PW A
Non-externally certificated - Level 1, Business, Administration and Law (SSA 15), PW A
Non-externally certificated - Level 1, Health, Public Services and Care (SSA 1), PW A
Non-externally certificated - Level 1, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14), PW A
Non-externally certificated - Level 2, Leisure, Travel and Tourism (SSA 8), PW A
Non-externally-certificated non-FE other provision, Foundations for Learning and Life SSA (14.1)
Non-externally-certificated non-FE other provision, Performing Arts SSA (09.1)
NQF - Entry Level, Health, Public Services and Care (SSA 1), PW A
NQF - Level 1, Health, Public Services and Care (SSA 1), PW A
NQF - Level 1, Health, Public Services and Care (SSA 1), PW B
NQF - Level 3, Business, Administration and Law (SSA 15), PW A
OCN Entry Level, PW A, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14)
OCN Entry Level, PW B, Arts, Media and Publishing (SSA 9)
OCN Entry Level, PW B, Health, Public Services and Care (SSA 1)
OCN Entry Level, PW C, Arts, Media and Publishing (SSA 9)
OCN Level 1, PW A, Business, Administration and Law (SSA 15)
OCN Level 1, PW A, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14)
OCN Level 1, PW B, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14)
OCN Level 1, PW C, Arts, Media and Publishing (SSA 9)
OCN Level 1, PW C, Information and Communication Technology (SSA 6)
OCN Level 2, PW A, Business, Administration and Law (SSA 15)
OCN Level 2, PW A, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14)
OCN Level 2, PW B, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14)
OCN Level 2, PW C, Arts, Media and Publishing (SSA 9)
OCN Level 3, PW A, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14)
OCN Level 3, PW C, Arts, Media and Publishing (SSA 9)
Progression (QCF)
QCF provision - Level 1, Information and Communication Technology (SSA 6), PW A
QCF provision - Level 1, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14), PW A
QCF provision - Level 2, Information and Communication Technology (SSA 6), PW B
Supervising Staff Safely
Unit Award Scheme (see also individual Unit titles)
Unitisation (approved external qualification) Entry Level, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14) - ESOL
Unitisation (approved external qualification) Entry Level, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14) - Literacy
Unitisation (approved external qualification) Entry Level, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14) - Numeracy
Unitisation (approved external qualification) Level 1, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14) - ESOL
Unitisation (approved external qualification) Level 1, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14) - Literacy
Unitisation (approved external qualification) Level 1, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14) - Numeracy
Unitisation (approved external qualification) Level 2, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14) - ESOL
Unitisation (approved external qualification) Level 2, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14) - Literacy

What is Enterprise?



Current Wages

Employed: £1.50 per session
Education: £1.50 per session

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  • Short Duration Programme

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Short term prisoners are offered help to resettle effectively by a range of voluntary and statutory agencies including Department of Works and Pensions seconded staff, C.R.I. who offer a housing advice service and officers trained by NACRO providing advice on housing related issues. 

  • Job club - Job Centre+
  • Self employment classes


Family Days Available


Guardian Has To Stay


Own Children




Age Limits

Up to 16 years

No of Visitors Permitted

4 adults and 6 children

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Ministry of Justice Performance Rating for this prison: 3

This is on a scale from 1 (serious concerns) to 4 (Exceptional) and is worked out by the Ministry of Justice taking into account 34 criteria such as overcrowding, purposeful activities etc. A score of 3 is considered a good performance. Published quarterly.

Average weekly hours of Purposeful Activity: 17.0 (2010)
This figure is supplied by each prison to the Prison Service. Actual hours are usually dependent on activities etc. and should be taken as the maximum time either in workshops or education over a whole week.

Both of these figures are published retrospectively by the MoJ and HMPS and may have changed since the figures were published but they give a simple comparison between prisons.


Annual Budget
: £39,300,000 (2011-12)*
Approx cost per prisoner place (2010): £69,310

*The annual budget allocated to the governor covers all major costs of running the prison but excludes most costs related to education and healthcare.

Parliamentary Information
CONSTITUENCY: Erith and Thamesmead
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Teresa Pearce (Labour)

Prisoners may write to either their ‘Home MP’ or the MP in whose constituency their current prison lies.
The address to write to is:
House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA


Local Authority
Greenwich Council
Write initially to:
Town Hall, Wellington Street, Woolwich SE18 6PW
Tel: 020 8854 8888
Click Here for link

You can contact the local authority on matters such as libraries, environmental health, trading standards, food hygiene, social services, education and electoral registration.

Trading Standards
The nearest Trading Standards department is at:
London Borough of Greenwich, Department of Community Safety and Environment, Riverside House, Woolwich High Street, Woolwich, London SE18 6DN
Tel: 08454 040506
Click Here for link

Trading Standards can help with problems with purchases such as weights and measures, ‘best by’ dates, pricing & faulty goods.


Most prisons now have PIN phones. Your relative or friend usually needs to apply to have your name and number on his/her telephone account. You will usually receive a call from the prison to check who you are and to ensure you are happy for them to call you. Prisoners cannot receive telephone calls.

There is no restriction on who prisoners can call except in the case of calls to journalists intended to be broadcast. In some cases child protection measures may mean extra checks on who they call.

Prisoners can normally make calls only during ‘association’ periods. Some prisons limit the length of time a call can last to avoid queues and people being disappointed. Prisoners’ telephone calls are very expensive; calls to landlines now cost 10p per minute and 37.5 p to mobiles (compared to 2p in a public phone box). In most prisons the phone calls can be listened to and/or recorded.

In general prisoners phone calls follow the same rules as for letters in as far as who can be contacted and what can be said. If the rules are broken the prison may terminate the call.

If a prisoner is newly convicted or transferred they should be offered an immediate ‘Reception’ phone call to tell you where they are. It may take a few days for numbers to be transferred or added.

When you write to a prisoner you must include your full name and address. In most prisons the letters are searched and can be read before being given to the prisoner.

You can write about anything but letters must not be obscene, name ‘victims’, or be a threat to discipline or security. Do not enclose any items with letters. Make sure you put sufficient postage to cover the costs (anything bigger than A5 counts as ‘large’). Prisoners can normally receive a ‘reasonable’ number of letters per week.

If you send greetings cards these should be of reasonable size and not padded or pouched. Do not send musical cards. If you are sending more than one card put them all inside one outer envelope, this saves postage. Remember to include your full details (you could put your details on a ‘Post-It’ note stuck to the card or include a letter which has your details).

Always put the prisoner’s full name and prison number. If the person has been moved their mail will be forwarded.

On conviction or transfer a prisoner should be given a ‘Reception’ letter to write to tell you where they are.
Prisoners are given a free letter each week to post out, they can send more, but at their own expense. Some prisons allow you to send in stamps.

You can send stamped address envelopes (address to yourself), for the prisoner to reply, to any prisoner in any prison.

Prisoners are not allowed to send you letters or information to be posted on social networking internet sites.

Remember all letters are opened and checked and may be read.

Full information about prisoners correspondence can be found in Prison Service Instruction 20011-006

You can usually send in photographs but in some prisons these must not include any image of the prisoner. Child protection measures may mean that some prisoners may not receive pictures of children, unless they are their own and were not ‘victims’. If you send pictures of children include an explanatory note identifying who the children are and their relationship to the prisoner.

It is not a good idea to send cash, this can get ‘lost’ in the prison. Prisons prefer postal orders, but you could send a cheque. Make these payable to ‘H M Prison Service’, write your name on the back and also the prisoner’s full name and prison number. Any money sent which is deemed to be ‘anonymous’ can be stopped.
Money you send is paid into the prisoner’s ‘Private Cash’ account and they get access to a certain amount (depending upon IEP) each week [currently £15.50 for Standard prisoners]. Include your full detail in an accompanying letter or note.

For full information about visits please refer to our ‘Visit Info’ section for this prison. Visits are very important to prisoners. At most prisons you may not give any item to the prisoner. Any items you wish to give them must usually be posted to the prison, and often after the prisoner has placed an ‘application’ for authorisation to have it sent in. The items which can be posted in are very limited. Check with the prisoner first and wait until they confirm that you can post it.

If there is a serious emergency - close family serious illness, death, or other reason you need to inform the prisoner immediately, you should telephone the main prison number and explain the problem to the operator who will transfer you to the appropriate person. If you are unhappy about their response redial and ask to speak to the Chaplaincy. Prison staff will not pass on general messages but only critical and very urgent messages. You should provide full details of the prisoner including their number.

Support and Advice
There are many very good charities and agencies who offer support and advice to people with family or friends in prison. We have a special section ‘Help/Support’ which has details and contact information for many of these. Do not hesitate or feel shy about calling any of these; they are there to offer support and advice.


Story Book Dads/Mums
Story Book Dads/Mums operates at this prison.
The imprisoned parent records a story and a message which is then edited and enhanced using digital audio software and editors remove mistakes and add sound effects and music. Finally a CD is made, a personalised cover created, and the finished disc sent to the child. The whole service is free.

Click Here for more information


Prison Video Link (PVL)
All prisons with video link facilities have at least one courtroom and two briefing rooms where the defendant can hold a conference with their solicitor before and, if required, after their court hearing.

If court hearings are not taking place it may be possible for solicitors, barristers and Probation Officers to hold interviews with a prisoner via video link to save having to visit the prison.

The facility is also available to assist the Parole Board in dealing with oral hearings.

It should be noted however that court hearings must take priority. At other times, operational reasons may mean bookings are refused or cancelled at short notice.

To book the Video Link facility telephone: 020 8331 4400 ext 4612


Monitoring and Inspection
Prisons Inspectorate
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) regularly inspects prisons and produces a report of their inspection with recommendations for improvements.
Click Here  to download a guide to inspections
Click Here  to visit our Library Section where you can download the latest inspection reports for all prisons
Independent Monitoring Board
Each prison has an Independent Monitoring Board made up of local people who visit the prison regularly to check on the treatment of prisoners. They produce an Annual Report.
Click Here  to visit our Library Section where you can download current and earlier IMB annual reports
Click Here  to download the IMB’s information leaflet; explaining who they are and what they do.
OFSTED, who check on teaching standards in schools also visit prisons and publish a report of their findings.
Click Here  to visit our Library Section where you can download OFSTED reports for all prisons
Monitoring & Inspection
Our on-line Library has a special section containing information, reports and publications about the monitoring of prisons and related services.
Click Here  to visit the ‘Monitoring and Inspection’ section of our on-line Library


Information in this section has been kindly provided by the individual prison and the Ministry of Justice. This is supplemented with information from various government websites, Inspectorates and IMB reports and specialist departments within the Prison Service, government, and regional assemblies/parliaments.
Some of the data is published retrospectively: IMBs/Visiting Committees publish their reports up to 6 months after the end of the reporting period and at different times throughout the year, HMCIP publish their reports up to 6 months after the inspection. Population and performance figures are the latest published but can be considerably out of date.
Please Note: Information is constantly changing: The information on our website is regularly checked but if you have additional information, or if you believe that any of our information is incorrect or any links appear to fail please click on ‘Contact’, below.
Before acting upon any information you are advised to contact the prison directly to ensure there have been no recent changes.

Last Update: June 2013

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