Prison Walkthrough - Questions

What happens to prisoner's homes when they are in prison? Do they lose their tenancy or will their house be repossessed?

Housing benefit is paid for tenants whose sentences are 13 weeks or less. No assistance is given for mortgage re-payments. However, it may be that you will be able to come to an arrangement with your housing provider or mortgage company if you can cover payments somehow whilst in prison.

What prison will a prisoner go to?

There are only 16 women's prisons in England and Wales so it is possible that women prisoners will be a long way from home. Women prisoners who experience difficulties as a result of this should speak to their personal officer.

Adult males and young offenders will start their sentence in a prison local to the court where they were sentenced. If the sentence is short then it may be carried out at the local prison otherwise longer term prisoners will be sent to a training prison soon after starting their sentence.

High security category male prisoners are sent to dispersal prisons for high-risk prisoners.

What is the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme?

The Prison Service operates a scheme of Incentives and Earned Privileges. This means that prisoners have the opportunity to get extra privileges through good behaviour, but lose those privileges if they misbehave.

The regime is based on a system which places a prisoner on one of three levels: basic, standard or enhanced. Most prisons operate a system which starts prisoners on either the basic or standard level. The privileges that can be earned affect a prisoner's daily life in prison. They include: the number of hours allowed out of their cell; the number of visits allowed above the minimum requirement; access to more of their own money to spend (on top of their prison wages) in the prison shop or on phone calls; the opportunity to wear their own clothes and to cook their own food; the chance to have a television in their cell, paid for by the prisoner.

How do security classifications work?

There are three security categories for women and young offenders: Category A, Closed, Semi Open and Open. Category A is for prisoners whose escape would be considered highly dangerous to the public or a threat to national security. Closed is for prisoners who are not trusted in an open prison. Open is for those who can be trusted to stay in an open prison. Un-convicted adult female prisoners (commonly referred to as Remand prisoners) will be held in closed conditions.

There are four security categories for adult male prisoners: A, B, C, and D. Category A is for prisoners whose escape would be considered highly dangerous to the public, or a threat to national security. Category B is for prisoners for whom escape must be made very difficult. Category C applies to prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions. Category D prisoners can be reasonably trusted in open conditions. Un-convicted adult prisoners (commonly referred to as Remand prisoners) will generally be treated as Category B prisoners.

How can prisoners make a complaint about the prison or its staff?

Prisoners can complain via a number of channels. All prisons will have their own internal complaints procedure for prisoners to follow. The Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) is an independent body set up to report on the running of prisons and other detention centres. Any prisoner with a problem can speak to the IMB. Each prison will have a system for speaking to the IMB which prisoners should follow.

The Prison and Probation Ombudsman is an independent official responsible for considering complaints from prisoners about almost any aspect of their treatment in prison. Prisoners can write to the ombudsman with their complaint, although prisoners are advised to go through any internal complaints procedures first. Please click www.ppo.gov.uk for further information.

How is a sentence worked out?

Working out the prisoner's release date can be complicated. Time spent on remand may be counted as part of the sentence. The prisoner's sentence will be explained to the prisoner when they go through their sentence planning exercise with prison staff.

How does parole work?

Parole is granted on the basis of reports by prison and probation staff on the nature of the offences committed, home circumstances, plans for release and behaviour in prison. Six months before the parole eligibility date and every year after that the prisoner will be asked if they wish to apply for parole. As the prisoner comes up to consideration for parole both home and prison probation officers make reports to the Parole Board. The prisoner can show their willingness to co-operate with the conditions in a parole licence by keeping in regular touch with home and prison probation officers. Four months before the parole eligibility date they will be able to see these reports and the prisoner will be able to write down why they think they should be paroled and what they will do on release. Please click www.paroleboard.gov.uk for further information.

What is release on licence?

There are three types of release on licence; compassionate, facility and resettlement. Release on licence could be to attend the funeral of a close family member or for a job interview. This is a privilege and will be tied in to the prisoners sentence plan. Each of the three types of licence has regulations attached. To find out about them, prisoners should ask a prison officer.

What is Home Detention Curfew?

This allows prisoners serving sentences of over three months but fewer than four years to spend up to 90 days at the end of their sentence in the community. Most of these prisoners are automatically considered for the Home Detention Curfew, although not all will be placed on the scheme.

At home the prisoner is fitted with an electronic tag and monitoring equipment will be installed at their home address. If the prisoner breaks the curfew they may be sent back to prison and they will not be placed on Home Detention Curfew again.

What help is offered to prisoners when they are going to be released?

The prison officers will be able to help the prisoner prepare for release via their sentence plan. The prison probation officer may put the prisoner in touch with their home probation officer and may contact outside bodies that can help the prisoner to arrange accommodation or employment after their release. The prisoner should be able to take part in Inmate development and Pre–release training.

Longer-term prisoners who are coming to the end of their sentence and who no longer pose any risk to the public are sometimes offered the opportunity to go out to training or work from prison and return when they have finished. Prisons look for community work for prisoners as well as frequently working with or running their own job clubs.

People leaving prison without adequate clothing may be able to obtain a Community Care Grant to purchase items.

Prisoners will see a medical officer as near as possible to their release date. Prisoners who need to claim benefits when leaving prison should do so as soon as possible but within 7 days of leaving prison.

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