Other Useful Prison Information
Going Prepared for Custodial Sentence or Possible Period of Remand
At each court attendance you should go prepared to receive a custodial sentence as court procedures involving different cases are constantly changing. For example, you may be told that a case will be heard over a five day period, only for it to conclude on day 1. For this reason you should take with you each day items that will be of use to you in prison; provided of course you are on bail. The following is a list of some essential and non essential items.
You will be allowed to spend £10 a week minimum of private cash on items such as phone credit, toiletries, food, stamps, tobacco, etc.
Make sure you take at least ¬£pound;50 cash to court with you as this will go straight into an account for you when you reach the prison.
Take paper, envelopes and stamps. Some prisons will allow these, some will not.
Most prisons will allow a maximum of three pairs of footwear. We recommend a pair of trainers for the gym and everyday wear, flip flops for the shower and smart shoes if you are going to court again. Additional footwear may need to be purchased by saving the £10 a week private money allocation, together with any wages [about £7 per week] until you can buy footwear and clothing by mail order.
Women: In most womens' prisons you are allowed to wear your own clothes whether you are on remand or convicted. There will be a set amount of clothes you can have in your possession. This varies from prison to prison, but if you take 6 bottoms and 8 tops you'll definitely be allowed these. You can take a reasonable amount of underwear and socks. We recommend dark colours and machine-washable fabrics for practical reasons.
Men: In most mens' prisons you can wear your own clothes on remand, but not when you are convicted.
Generally, you have a limited time period to get your clothes in up to your volumetric maximum - ask in reception what you are allowed to have and then arrange for friends or family to bring it in. They will have to clearly stipulate when booking the visit that they are also handing in property for you.
You will probably have plenty of spare time the first week or two so consider taking a few books to read - no more than four. You will be introduced to library facilities during your induction period. However you will need something to occupy yourself with in the meantime.
IMPORTANT NOTE: COMPANION ANIMALS
If you have animals please ensure that you have made satisfactory arrangements for their care prior to a possible custodial sentence. Regrettably the VPSG is unable to take on this responsibility.
Non Essential Items
Please be aware that whilst some prisons allow these to be taken in by new prisoners on arrival, others do not. We recommend that you take a cheap new item, still packaged, as some prisons will only allow a new item. You can purchase these items in prison however. Most prisons do not accept MP3 players.
You are not allowed to take in tobacco, cigarettes etc and will have to purchase these from the canteen.
Very few prisons allow toiletries to be taken in on reception; if they do they would need to be new and sealed.
ARRIVING AT THE PRISON
Once you have arrived at the prison you will be processed at reception. This will inevitably involve a period of waiting around until you are seen.
You will first be strip searched which will involve all items of clothing being removed and each item searched. At no time should all clothing be removed at once [i.e. the lower half of your clothing should be intact while they are searching the top half and vice versa].
All your property will be listed on your property card. The items you are allowed will be handed back for you to take with you into prison, while other items will be stored for you. You will be allowed to hand out stored or in possession items on visits, providing you make an application beforehand.
You will usually be given a pack containing basic toiletries, comb and a toothbrush. This often contains the vegan prison-issue toiletries mentioned above; memorise them to ensure you have vegan toiletries right from the start or take this list with you.
Your photograph will be taken and you will then be issued with a prison number. This number will usually remain with you throughout your sentence whether you are on remand or convicted.
You will be asked whether you have any medical problems or are on any medication - this is the best opportunity to clearly state that you are a vegan.
Free phone call
You should normally be entitled to a free phone call when you go through reception so make sure you have the numbers you need with you.
You can ask to write down numbers you will need from your mobile phone before it is put into stored property.
You will be offered a choice of:
- Smokers' pack: contains rolling tobacco, rizla papers and matches.
- Goody pack: contains sweets - no use to you as not vegan.
- £3 phone credit.
You will then be taken to Healthcare and be seen by a doctor. At this point make sure that it has been put on your files that you are vegan. Also remember to inform them if you need to arrange any herbal remedies.
Visits can be booked over the phone without a visiting order, and you will usually be allowed more visits than if convicted.
When convicted, the prisoner is usually allowed a Reception Visit in the first week after they arrive at the prison (this will depend on the individual prison so check as some stipulate that the Reception Visit must take place within the first 48 hours). For this visit a Visiting Order (V.O.) is not required, the visitor can just book the visit over the phone.
After this your visitors will be required to be in possession of a V.O., which they use to book a visit.
V.O.'s are normally issued on a weekly basis. You will get around 2-4 visits a month as a convicted prisoner. You will get more visits and longer ones when you are enhanced.
Normally there is a restriction to three adult visitors per V.O. Make sure your visitors check ID requirements for visits since these vary from prison to prison. Some prisons are very strict e.g. HMP Bronzefield visitors may be turned away if they don't have the correct I.D.
There are three status levels that you can be at as a prisoner:
- Standard Prisoner: Your status on arriving at prison.
- Enhanced Prisoner: This is attained by attending work or education and by general good behaviour.
- Basic Prisoner. This is attained as a result of bad behaviour and will result in a loss of privileges.
The higher your status the more privileges you get, for example more visits.
For your information all behaviour in breach of prison rules is documented in your personal file during the whole sentence.
Once you have seen Sentence Planning you may be required to undertake certain courses. They can help with tagging if you are doing a sentence over 4 months and under 4 years. For any sentence over 4 years, you will be automatically released at the halfway point. For IPP sentences, speak to your lawyer.
Prison education could present you with a chance to enhance your academic abilities. It is also important as a way to keep your mind active.
There may also be the opportunity to learn computer skills which can be an advantage on your release and also A Level Courses according to the length of your sentence.
Access to Open University Courses is also a possibility with the added bonus of payment for the course being available from the Prison Education Trust. If a second OU is undertaken the Home Office will pay. Prisons won't pay for correspondence courses until you are sentenced.
Updated November 2008