Transferring Prisons

Why may a prisoner be transferred?

There are many reasons why a prisoner serving his sentence in one prison may be transferred to another within the duration of their sentence. Some of these reasons include:

  • Their security category has changed

  • In order to serve the final weeks of their sentence in a prison nearer their home

  • The prisoner’s sentence plan requires them to complete a course which is not available at the prison they are in, such as drug and alcohol, or anger management schemes

  • They are behaving in a disruptive way

  • Category A prisoners are routinely moved from time to time for security reasons

  • For their own safety if they are being bullied within the original prison

  • If their main visitor has a medical problem making visits impossible.

  • If they no longer need to be kept in such a high security facility, i.e. transferred to open prison conditions

Can a prisoner request a transfer?

Under UK law, a person sent to prison can be held in any prison. A prisoner has no legal right to request which prison they want to serve their sentence in. A prisoner does not have any legal right to be transferred to a prison of their choice.

A prisoner may apply to be transferred to a different prison, but whether or not this is granted will be the decision of then Prison Governor, unless the prisoner is a category A prisoner, or a prisoner serving a life sentence, on which the decision will be made by the Prison Headquarters.

The prisoner can request a transfer via the prison request system, or on a form provided by the prison service.

It is usual for transfer requests not to be considered unless the prisoner has served a few months at their current facility.

The prisoner should expect to receive a response within 7 days of application.

Prison location policy

Although the prisoner has no legal right of transfer, the prison service has a location policy that aims to encourage contact between prisoners and their families as well as minimise the harmful effects of removing the prisoner from society.

The prison service also has an obligation to ensure a prisoners safety and wellbeing is maintain, which may include transferring a prisoner to another location if that prisoner is suffering from bullying or harassment by fellow prisoners.

These factors may influence the Governors decision, but ultimately the decision is up to his discretion.

Transfer refusal

If a prisoner has applied for a transferred which is refused, they may appeal the decision through the prison complaints system. They are entitled to receive a reply from the complaint within 6 weeks of lodging the complaint.

I following no success or the prisoner is still not satisfied with the result of the refusal and explanation, then the prisoner or someone on his behalf, with his permission, may write in confidence to the Prison and Probation Ombudsman. This letter must be completed within one month of receiving the refusal or unsatisfactory response from the prison service.

A prisoner would not have any grounds for pursuing legal action in this instance as the law clearly states that a prisoner can legally be held in any prison in.

There is an option for the High Court to judicially review a decision by the Prison Service but this is unlikely to be successful unless the prisoner could prove truly exceptional circumstanced warranting a prison transfer

Can a prisoner be transferred without informing the family?

If a prisoner is granted a prison transfer, they will also be entitled to send a free letter to one person who visits them. They may, again at the discretion of the Prison Governor, be granted additional free letter and/or the possibility of a free phone call.

In the case of Category A prisoners, who are often transferred throughout their prison sentence due to security reasons, they are usually not informed of the move or given very short notice. In these cases, the prisoner may leave details with his former prison of who needs to be contacted and informed of their move. The prison officials will then contact these people. It must be within reason the amount of people the prison will contact on a prisoners behalf, and this will again be up to the discretion of the prison Governor and the policies applicable to individual prisons.

Failure to inform relatives of prisoner transfer

Situations may arise where a person has been unable to contact family members, or even choose not to inform anyone of his prison transfer.

In these circumstances, family members may be able to find out this information from the allocations unit at the prison where the prisoner has left.

If this option is not available, or the prison will not provide such information, then relatives may wish to contact the Prisoner Location Service in Birmingham, providing them with as much detailed information about the prisoner as possible such as:

  • Prisoner name

  • Date of birth

  • Details of the offence convicted of

  • Relationship to the prisoner

Providing the prisoner is happy for the Prisoner Location Service to disclose their whereabouts to the enquiring relative, the service will provided them with the information within 3 – 4 weeks, dependant on how quick they established where the prisoner is located.

Temporary transfers

It may be possible for a prisoner who is detained miles away from his home, to save up his prison visits and apply for a temporary transfer to a local prison, for usually a period of up to 28 days.

Depending on the rules and regulations of the local prison the person has transferred to, these saved up visits can usually all be taken with the temporary transfer so that families do not have to travel extreme distances.