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Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to bring ID when I visit a prison?

To visit a prison you will normally need need two forms of identification, one of which must be photo ID such as passport and the other should be proof of address such as a utility bill or benefit book. If you are unable to provide two forms of ID or further details of identification types, please visit our prison page or contact the prison directly.

What happens if I'm late?

Visit facilities are in high demand and spaces are limited. Therefore it is important that you arrive promptly for your visit and stick to your allocated time. If you are able to let us know that you are running late, we may be able to allow the visit. While there is generally a window of time to arrive, each prison, will have cut off times and it may not be possible to re-book for the same day. If you are unsure about how to get to a prison, or for more information on visit times, please visit our prisons page.

What security measures should I know about when visiting a prison?

Our security when visiting a prison is similar to what you would expect at an airport. For your safety and security we operate robust security measures. The purpose of our security process is to ensure the safety of everyone visiting the prison. While security measures vary at different prisons dependent on the facilities, generally speaking you will be asked to place your belongings in a locker and proceed through a metal detector. You may be asked to remove a belt or your shoes and there may also be ION scanners in place or dogs present. There will usually be a waiting room before you are called through to the visits area.

What is a closed visit?

On occasion, some prisoners may not be allowed access to the main visits room for a range of reasons. In this case, they will be offered a closed visit where you are separated from the prisoner by a screen.

How many visits is a prisoner allowed each week/month?

The number of visits a prisoner may have depends on their status (whether they are remand or convicted) the timetable and the facilities of the prison they are in. You can find prison visit times here.

How many visitors is a prisoner allowed at each visit?

Due to each prison having unique facilities, the number of adults and/or children allowed per visit varies between prisons. To find out more, please visit our prison information pages.

I can't afford to visit.

You may qualify for help with fares from the Assisted Prison Visits Unit (APVU).

I am seriously ill and unable to visit. Can the prison help me maintain contact in person?

There is various support available to you and prisons will look at each case individually. Please get in touch with the Family Contact Officer to discuss any problems. Phone numbers for each prison's FCO can be found here.

What is a family hub or visitor centre?

The Family Hub or Visitor Centre is somewhere you can go before or after the visit. This can be to either book in, use lockers, have something to eat or drink or have a chat to the staff. Staff within the centres are either from a charity or volunteers. You may also find the Familiy Contact Officer there at certain times. The staff will all know about the visiting times and can help with any problems you may have before or after your visit. Staff can also help you to access support services if you require someone to speak to.

How do I find out what prison my family member/friend is in?

The prison someone is sent to can depend on factors such as whether they are remand or convicted, their gender, where they are from and what space is available. Prisoners can also be transferred to other prisons for a range of reasons. When someone is sent to jail they are usually offered a chance to let family know where they are.

How do I book a visit?

Each prisoner has a list of visitors that may come to visit them. If they are not on that list you will not be allowed a visit. Each prison operates bookings differently dependent on facilities. In some prisons the prisoner will book the visit and you will be notified, in others you will be able to phone and book. For details on how to book a visit at a specific prison, visit our prison information pages.

Can I bring my children?

Yes. Children are allowed in visits sessions. Many of our prisons also provide additional family visits or bonding visits. More details of these can be found on our prison information pages. Babies are also welcome but you may be asked to leave pushchairs/strollers in the vestibule or visitors centre.

Can I bring any belongings into a visit?

You will be asked to place any belongings you have with you (handbag, phone etc) into a locker either in the vestibule or visitor centre. You may be allowed to take through some small change if there are vending machines. If you wish to hand in property, the prisoner must fill in the "proforma" form listing the property they are expecting from you. This is for security reasons and only these items on the form will be allowed in. Some prisons operate specific times to hand in property and cash. For more information please visit our prison information pages.

What is a Family Contact Officer?

The FCO is a member of prison staff who is responsible for encouraging and maintaining links with families. For more information please visit our Family Contact Officer page.

Can prisoners make telephone calls to people outside?

Yes. There are telephones in the prison which prisoners can use to telephone their families and friends at certain times.

Can I phone and speak to them?

It is not possible to make a direct phone call to a prisoner. If you need to get an urgent message to a prisoner, for example about illness or death in the family or the birth of a baby, contact the prison using phone numbers found on our prison information pages and ask to speak to a Family Contact officer or the Manager of the Hall where your family member is located.

How are calls paid for?

The phone system works on a credit basis and payment comes from prisoners personal cash account (PPC), wages or savings. Prisoners are issued with a PIN number to access an outside line. Soon after a prisoner is admitted to prison they are asked to submit a list of telephone numbers of family, friends and legal contacts. They will only be allowed to call numbers on their list.

Can I write to a prisoner as often as I like?

There is not usually any restriction on the number of letters a prisoner can receive. When you write, remember to put the person's prison number and name on the letter.

Can the prisoner write to me?

Yes. The prisoner will be allowed to send one free letter each week. If they want to write more often they can, but will have to pay for the postage themselves.

Can I send or bring money to a prisoner?

Yes. To send money we recommend sending a postal order by Recorded Delivery. It is advisable to write the prisoners name and prison number on the back. You can also bring cash in for prisoners at certain times, typically before or after visits. The money will be transferred to prisoner's PPC (Prisoner's Personal Cash) account. The amount of spending money a prisoner is allowed each week depends on whether they are untried or convicted and the privilege level they are on.

Can I send or bring property to a prisoner?

You can send certain items of clothing and property to a prisoner, but only if the prisoner has filled out what's known as a proforma form detailing the items they are expecting which is then signed off by security.

What property/facilities does the prison provide?

If there is a requirement to wear prison uniform the prison will provide this. Prison uniform is usually polo shirt, sweatshirt and trousers or jeans. The prison can also provide underwear, socks and footwear for work. Basic hygiene items such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes and nail brushes can also be provided. The prisoner will have all meals provided as well as heating, lighting and washing facilities. Their clothing and bedding will be cleaned by the prison laundry workshop.

What can a prisoner buy themselves?

Prisoners can order some small items from the canteen. This varies between prisons, but generally things like cigarettes, tobacco, stamps, toiletries and snack items will be on sale.

Who can my relative/friend in your custody speak to?

When someone enters our custody they will go through an admissions process where they can discuss any issues or questions they may have and will be given information on who they can go to for support in that prison. There are staff members in all halls that prisoners can talk to. Many prison halls also have specific "Personal Officer," first night centres, prisoner listener, Samaritains phone and chaplains

Can I email a prisoner?

Yes. For more information please visit our Keeping in Contact page

Can a prisoner attend funerals, visit terminally ill relatives, attend births or christenings?

This may be possible under certain circumstances. Contact the prison to make such a request. Prison phone numbers can be found on our prison information pages.

Can prisoners see a doctor?

Yes. Each prison has healthcare facilities with doctors, nurses and dentists. All prisoners are seen by a doctor within 24 hours of admission.

Who can I speak to for support?

There is support available for families of prisoners both nationally and locally. Family Contact Officers and the Visitor Centre/Family Hub can make you aware of any current local partnerships that maybe of benefit. Please visit our Where can I get Support page for more information.