Prisoners and phone calls

There are telephones in the prison available to prisoners which they can use to keep in touch with families and friends. It is likely that there will be restrictions on the time of day a prisoner can use the telephone. It is also quite common for the prisoner to have to queue to use the telephone and some prisons use a booking system to make an appointment to use the telephone. There are generally only one or two telephones per wing.

Prisoners are not allowed to receive calls from outside the prison.

How are the calls paid for?

Prisoners are required to cover the cost of their phone calls from their private cash or earnings.  If you want to help a prisoner with the cost of making calls then you can send money to them at the prison by way of a postal order, for more details visit Property and Money.

Prisoners do not use ‘phone cards’. On reception to prison, prisoners are given a PIN number and a form on which they need to provide the details (name, address, telephone number) of up to twenty people they wish to have contact with and up to fifteen legal numbers. These numbers will need to be approved by security before being attached to the PIN number. A prisoner can then only make telephone calls to those people he/she has elected to.

Prisoners can be banned from using certain telephone numbers. This might include those of victims or the press.

New arrivals

The prison should allow new arrivals the opportunity to make a telephone call when they arrive to let their families know where they are. This may not happen if they arrive late in the evening or if the reception process takes a long time. Prisoners are not allowed mobile phones, so please bear in mind that if they have not written down or memorised their stored phone numbers, they may not be able to get in touch straight away.

Once in prison, the prisoner has to pay for telephone calls (outlined above), so they will not be able to call until they have money in their account.

As outlined above, prisons operate a PIN system for the telephones which may take a few days to set up so this can cause a delay in them making contact.

What if it is an emergency?

If a prisoner cannot access a Pinphone and needs to get in touch with someone as a matter or urgency, for example for very strong compassionate reasons then they may, at the Governor’s discretion, be permitted to use an official telephone. If you have an urgent message for a prisoner such as informing them of the death of a family member, Prison Chaplains can usually pass this on and offer them support.

Are telephone calls monitored?

Prison officers can listen to a number of calls at random. For most prisoners, other than Category A prisoners, calls are not routinely checked unless there is some intelligence to suggest illegal activity may be taking place. Calls made by all high risk Category A prisoners are monitored.

Calls will be terminated if a call contains anything that:

  • Relates to escape plans or compromises the security of the prison
  • Is connected to a criminal offence or a breach in prison rules
  • Threatens national security
  • Is threatening or indicates blackmail
  • Is racially offensive or obscene in nature

Calls made to Samaritans, legal advisers, the Prison and Probation Ombudsman’s office, the Criminal Cases Review Committee, Consular Officials and a number of other ‘confidential access organisations’ are not listened to.

Sending voicemails to a prisoner

The Prison Voicemail system is available in most prisons and enables family and friends to exchange voicemails with prisoners at convenient times, as well as talk directly.

Family or friends sign up online and are given a unique landline phone number which they can call at any time to leave messages. The prisoner dials the same number from within the prison to listen and reply. If the family member has installed the accompanying Prison Voicemail app on their phone (available on Android and iOS), they will be notified when the prisoner is accessing the voicemail system and can choose to join the call and speak directly. The app also lets them send messages at higher quality, and listen to favourite messages again.

Calls to the voicemail service cost the prisoner the price of a normal landline call, and the family member can choose from a variety of minutes packages with prices ranging from 20p per minute to 5p per minute.

To find out more please visit or call their office on 01603340588.

Can I write to a prisoner?

Yes. A prisoner can receive letters through the post. In most cases, there’s no limit on the number of letters you can send. It is advisable to note that letters can be checked by prison staff. Prisons can’t open letters from solicitors and courts, unless, they suspect a letter isn’t really from a legal adviser.

You can complain to the prison if you think your letters are being read when they shouldn’t be, or if your letters aren’t reaching the prisoner. All letters are opened to ensure that no unauthorised items are contained within.  All letters, both incoming and outgoing, may be read in high security establishments.

Letters must also not contain anything that:

  • Relates to escape plans or compromises the security of the prison
  • Is connected to a criminal offence or a breach in prison rules
  • Threatens national security or is written in code
  • Is threatening or indicates blackmail
  • Is racially offensive or obscene in nature

Letters will be stopped if the above rules are broken.

Prisoners writing letters

Each week a prisoner is allowed to send one free letter. If they want to send more than this then they need to purchase stamps and envelopes from the prison shop/canteen. Alternatively you can post self addressed stamped envelopes to the prisoner so they can post letters back to you. If a prisoner is on remand then they are allowed to send 2 free letters a week.

What if I do not want the prisoner to write to me any more?

Contact the HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Victims Helpline if you get unwanted letters, phone calls, texts or messages from a prisoner.

You can also contact the helpline if you’re worried about someone being released from prison.

HM Prison and Probation Service Victims Helpline
Telephone: 0300 060 6699
Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm
Find out about call charges


You can send photos of family members, but do remember that some prisons do not allow prisoners to receive photographs of themselves, and that includes family snapshots that include them. Photographs of an explicit or pornographic nature would not be allowed. Certain prisoners may not be permitted to have photographs of children.

Sending a Prisoner clothes, toiletries or gifts

Each prison varies in what can and cannot be sent into a prisoner so it is best to contact the prison beforehand. Alternatively you can contact the visitor centre at the prison who will be able to tell you what can be sent in and how to send it in, for more details visit Property and Money.

It is strongly recommended that any gifts or money being sent into the prison be sent by recorded delivery.


Email a Prisoner has systems set up in a number of prisons which enable families and friends to send emails to prisoners. This system does not provide a direct email to the prisoner. Staff in the prison post room print off the email, put in an envelope and deliver it to the prisoner with the rest of their correspondence.

The cost of this is 40p per message and some prisons have the option for the prisoner to reply back for an extra 25p per message. The contents of emails must follow the same rules as letters and telephone calls. At present there is no facility for prisoners to email out. To find out more, please visit

This page was updated April 2020