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Thursday, 3 September 2009

Visiting family members in prison

If a member of your family is in prison, visits can help you keep in touch. You can also keep in touch by letter and your family member will be able to contact you by telephone.

Visiting a prisoner

There are rules about how many visits a prisoner is allowed and how the visits are conducted.

If your family member has been convicted of a crime they must send you a Visiting Order (VO) which you will need to take with you when you visit. The names and details of all visitors should be provided on the visiting order, including young persons under the age of 18 whose full name, date of birth, address and relationship to the prisoner should be included. All visits must be booked in advance on the prison telephone booking line.

How often you can visit

Convicted prisoners are entitled to at least two 60-minute visits every four weeks. If you live a long way from the prison, the inmate may ask to save up visits so you can make fewer, but longer, visits. Prison inmates can also apply to take the visits which have been saved up at a prison closer to home.

Who can visit and what you need to take with you

You should make sure that you have the right form of identification with you when visiting. A passport, driving licence or gas bill would normally be suitable, but you can check this when ringing to book your visit. The type of identification that the prison is willing to accept may differ from prison to prison.

No more than three people can come on a visit at the same time, so make sure that no-one else is visiting the same person on the same day as you. Anyone over the age of ten counts as one person. Children under ten can go in addition to the limit. Anyone under 18 years must usually be accompanied by an adult. If the person you're visiting is on remand or has been convicted of a civil offence, you need to check the visiting arrangements with the prison.

What you can take with you

If you want to take things in for the person you are visiting, you must check what's allowed with the prison before you visit. Anything you take in must be handed to the officer in charge of visits.

All visitors should be aware that smuggling drugs into prisons is a serious offence. It can result in a ban from the prison for several months or in arrest.

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