Types of prison visits
There are two types of prison visits:
Social visits- include visits from the friends and family members of the prisoners
Official visits- which includes visits from legal advisors or similar professionals.
Official visits are not included in a prisoner’s entitlement to social visits. These are additional visits allowed by prisoners on top of their monthly entitlement.
How often can a prisoner have visitors?
A prisoner on remand, who is awaiting their trial, is allowed three 60 minute visits per week.
A convicted prisoner is allowed at least two 60 minute visits every four weeks. Some prisons will increase the amount of visits a prisoner is entitled to as an award for good behaviour.
Prisoner can also ask for a temporary transfer to a prison closer to their home address. The prisoner will then save up all their prison visits to allow them all to be used during their time at the prisoner closer to their home.
Depending on the flexibility of the prison the prisoner has been transferred to, it may be possible to extend the length of each visit to accommodate family.
In addition to the basic level of prison visits, prisoners are also entitled to privileged visits.
These can be granted by the discretion of the prison Governor. There are often granted where a Governor feels it is necessary for matters concerning the prisoner’s welfare, and this category will also include visits earned by the prisoner in an incentive scheme or as a reward for good behaviour.
The specific entitlements of privilege visits will differ from prison to prison, but the usual scheme includes:
Basic level – same level as usual prison allowance of visits.
Standard level – at least 3 visits every 28 days with the possibility of including added features to the visits depending on the prison facilities.
Enhanced – 4 or 5 one hour visits every 28 days. Where a prison can accommodate, a prisoner may be given the choice of day and time for the visit, and also use of enhanced facilities such as visiting areas.
Conditions for social visits
All prisoners are entitled to a visit within 72 hours of their arrival at the prison. It is the duty of the staff at the prison to inform each prison of this entitlement.
A prisoner can usually have up to 3 adult visitors at any one time. Any accompanying children will be allowed outside the limit of visits.
Children are classified as any person under the age of 18 years old.
Social visits must take place in an area that is within hearing range and sight of staff.
Reasonable physical contact between prisoner and visitor is permitted.
A prisoner is allowed to embrace their visitor at least at the beginning and end of the visit.
Young children will be allowed a greater level of contact with the prisoner.
Food, drinks and toys for children should be available within visiting areas to make the visits feel comfortable.
The environment must be relaxed and as informal as possible for both prisoners and visitors, in particularly, children.
Visits can be conducted in any language, except for where the prison Governor request the visit to be conducted in English or monitored by a native speaker for security reasons.
Conditions for Official visits
The conditions for official visits are the same as those for social visits, except that they do not take place in a place where anyone else can hear the visit, particularly visits made by legal advisors, as these are confidential in nature.
Prison visit for Category A prisoners
Visitors to Category A prisoners must be security checked and approved prior to entering the prison grounds. The prison Governor will have discretion in allowing close relatives into the prison under closed conditions prior to the approval being granted.
When visitors arrive at the prison
When a visitor arrives at the prison, they will need to present their visiting order that has been sent to them by the prisoner.
This order contains:
The names of all the visitors
Visitors dates of birth
Relationship to the prisoner for all visitors under the age of 18.
Visitors must also provide identification such as a passport or driving license. If a visitor does not have any of these forms of identification they must contact the prison prior to a visit.
When a visitor arrives at the prison, they will usually have to leave their personal possessions such as mobile telephones, bags and any medication in a private locker in the visitors’ area of the prison.
Food and drink are not usually allowed to be given to prisoners during a prison visit. What a visitor can take into the visit will differ between prisons, and each visitor should check with the prison prior to the visit.
Anything a visitor takes into the visit must be handed over to the officer in charge to check before it can be approved. A visitor may also be searched. If they refuse for such a search to take place they can be refused entry to the prison.
Visits are allowed between two prisoners at different prisons who fall within the definition of close relatives. Subject to each prisons security measures, availability of transport and accommodation, prisoners may be transferred to another prison for such visits to take place.
Every prisoner is entitled to one inter-prison visit every three months and this will take one of the visits available visiting orders just as a normal visit would.