Prisoner’s property

When a person is sent to prison, there may be a number of items they decided to take with them, whether these are financially valuable items or personally treasured and irreplaceable items. For the prisoner, their main concern is that these items are stored safely and securely if they are not in their personal possession.

Is the prison service responsible for a prisoner’s property?

A prisoner’s property is divided into two categories. Firstly you have the stored property, which is kept in the possession of the prison service, and secondly you have all the property that is personally kept with the prisoner at all times, known and referred to as ‘in possession’ property.

If stored property is lost either in reception when it is taken off the prisoner, or through transferring a prisoner, providing this property has been detailed in the prisoner’s property record, then the prison service will be liable for the loss and to pay the prisoner compensation.

It is very unlikely that the prison service will take responsibility for property held in a prisoner’s possession. This is basically due to the fact that the prisoner may give his property to another at any time, may damage his property or misplace his property, upon which the prison service has no input.

There are a few exceptions to this general rule, which are based on the law of negligence.

Property in personal possession

The prison service will be liable for a prisoner’s lost property even if it is in his possession if any of the following criteria apply:

  • The prisoner has been moved from his current location to another without any prior warning or time to secure all his property in his personal possession.

  • The prisoner has been temporarily transferee

  • Where the prisoner has absconded or escaped.

A prisoner’s stored property

It is considered that where a prison stores a prisoner’s excess property, this is an exceptional or possibly temporary measure.

A prisoner’s excess property is usually stored at the prison he is in; however, it may be necessary for such excess property to be kept in the National Distribution Centre in Branston. If this happens, the relevant prison will need to keep a detail account of what property has been transferred in relation to each prisoner.

The amount of property held in a prisoner’s possession

The property a prisoner holds in his possession, which will be the property he takes with him to his prison cell, must be able to fit into two standard size control boxes.

The property will be checked by the prison Governor, who then has to agree to any items that exceed this size or items over the volume of possessions that the prison usually accepts.

A list of all the prisoners property will be taken when he is initially checked into the prison, and each prisoner must then certify that this list of property is correct or not.

Confiscation of a prisoner’s property

The following items may be temporarily confiscated by the prison Governor:

  • Any unauthorised items that have been found in the personal possession of the prisoner.

  • Any item that is found in the prisoner’s personal possession that is an authorised item, but has been used in an unauthorised manner. This may include property used to threaten good order within the prison, discipline or security measures.

If any property is temporarily removed from the prisoner’s possession, he must have a full explanation of the reasons why this has happened and what the next steps will be.

No items will be permanently removed from a prisoner, and at the very least, must be handed back to the prisoner when he is permanently released from prison.

Valuable property

When a prisoner is checked in, any retained cash or existing cash that has already been removed, must be paid into an account which is credited to that prisoners name. Even though the account is in the prisoner’s name, ultimate control of this account will lie with the Prison Governor.

Any items of jewellery on the prisoner will be listed as either white or yellow metal, which essentially refers to gold or silver.

Any passports or identification cards held by a foreign national prisoner who has been informed of his deportation, must be forwarded by the prison service to the nation Borders Agency UK.