Are prisoners allowed their own property whilst in prison?
Under current legislation prisoners cannot generally have items of property sent/taken into them unless in the first 28 days of their sentence.
Are there restrictions on what items of property a prisoner is allowed?
Yes, however property entitlement varies from prison to prison and can also be dictated by the regime level a prisoner is subject to. (A prisoner may be entitled to more items under the enhanced regime).
What happens to the property they have with them when they go into prison?
All items of property in a prisoner’s possession when they arrive at prison will be logged and marked down on their ‘property card’. Any restricted items or items over and above the permitted limit will be removed and placed in a bag which is sealed in front of the prisoner. These items will be returned to the prisoner upon release.
What happens if the prisoner has important documents or house or car keys with them when they go into prison?
A prisoner can make arrangements with the prison to hand out the items to visitors as soon as is practical. Some prisons do not allow prisoners to keep valuable items with them and the Prison Service will not accept responsibility for loss or damage of property unless it can be proved that the prison was at fault. In most cases it is advisable that the prisoners arranges for a relative or friend to pick the item up on a visit. If the prisoner decides they want to keep the item with them, or they want the prison to store it for them, they should tell the prison staff about the item so the details are correctly recorded on the property sheet.
Can I send or take property in to the prisoner?
This depends on the particular establishment. Each prison has its own set of rules regarding property and how a prisoner can obtain the items they require. For example in some prisons you can hand property in on a visit whereas in others property can only be posted in. In certain prisons the prisoner has to purchase any items they require from their private cash or earnings through a catalogue affiliated to the prison. The set rules within each prison establishment can be found on the HM Prison Website prison finder (England and Wales) or the Scottish Prison Service website (Scotland).
Friends and family are no longer able to send in items for prisoners by post or through visits unless there are exceptional circumstances. Prisoners now need to purchase items through catalogues that are within the prison. No prison allows food or drink, tobacco or cigarettes or toiletries to be handed or posted in to a prisoner. Magazines and newspapers can be purchased for the prisoner but this must be done through a local newsagent with whom the prison has an arrangement. Check with the prison before purchasing or sending any items to the prison for the prisoner. If a prisoner transfers to another prison then be aware that the property rules may change.
Does a prisoner get provided with toiletries or a change of clothes?
Some prisons require prisoners to wear a uniform which will be provided to the prisoner. In addition, if a prisoner does not have enough clothes the prison has to provide them with suitable clothing to keep them clean and warm. This includes underwear and socks. Most prisons provide prisoners with a reception pack upon entry which has things like soap and toothpaste in. The prisoner will then be able to buy extras from the prison shop, or canteen. The shop or canteen is not a shop in the traditional sense but is instead a list of items from which the prisoner can chose to purchase. Money is directly debited from the prisoner’s account to pay for any items ordered. A prisoner will never have access to physical money.
How does a prisoner get money to buy things at the canteen?
If a prisoner is participating in a course or has a job within the prison then they are paid a weekly wage. This amount varies dependent on the job or course the prisoner is participating in. The average weekly wage may be around £10. If a prisoner is not participating in work or training then s/he will be paid a weekly ‘unemployment’ allowance, this will be around 50p per day. Any money that a prisoner has on them upon arrival, plus any money they earn through training and work is placed in the prisoner’s personal account. Prisoner’s weekly spend entitlement varies depending on whether they are sentenced/convicted or on remand and also what regime they are subject to e.g. basic, standard or enhanced. Family or friends can also send prisoners money to put in their account via cheque or postal order.
The quickest and preferred method of sending money to a prison is via postal order purchased from the Post Office. Cheques can take at least 15 working days to clear through the system.
The postal order or cheque should be made payable to ‘NOMS’. Prisons should also accept postal orders or cheques made payable to the following variations:
- HM Prison Service
- NOMS Agency
- The Governor, HMP (name of establishment)
- Shared Service Centre HMPS
- SSC HMP (name of establishment)
The postal order or cheque should then be placed in an envelope addressed to the Governor of the prison in which the prisoner is located. You should include in the envelope your name and address as the sender of the money and the prisoner’s name and prison number. On receipt into the establishment the money will be paid into the prisoner’s private cash account. More information on sending money into prisons can be found on the Justice Website.
Privately run prisons have different rules on whom the payee should be and these are listed below:
*HMP Altcourse G4S
HMP Ashfield Serco
HMP Bronzefield To the Director
HMP and YOI Doncaster To the Director
*HMP Dovegate To the Director
HMP/YOI Forest Bank Kalyx
*HMP Lowdham Grange To the Director
*HMP Oakwood G4S
*HMP/YOI Parc HMP Parc
HMP Peterborough To the Director
HMP Rye Hill HMP Rye Hill
*HMP Thameside HMP Thameside
*HMP Wolds G4S
*Prisons that accept secure payments online once registered at:
What can a prisoner buy from the canteen?
Every prison will vary in what is on sale in the canteen/shop, but generally things like sweets, stationery, cigarettes and toiletries will be available. There should be a wide range of items available to purchase and the list should cater to cultural needs and requirements.
If a prisoner is transferred to another prison, will their money and property go with them?
Yes. Money will be transferred to their account at the new prison. This may take a few days. The prisoner’s property will be sealed in plastic bags and checked against their property card before they leave the prison. The prisoner will have to sign the card to confirm the contents.
What if a prisoner’s property is lost can they be compensated?
If a prisoner’s property is lost in reception or in transit as a consequence of a transfer and the property was listed on the prisoner’s property card then the Prison Service is liable to pay compensation for the missing items.
If property goes missing from a prisoner’s cell then the Prison Service is not liable to pay compensation. The only exception to this rule is where a prisoner is moved from their cell without an opportunity to move or secure their possessions.
How does a prisoner make a claim if the prison loses their property?
The prisoner should first submit an application to the Governor through the request/complaints procedure. They should provide details of the missing property, when the items were purchased or received and the cost of each item.
Please note that compensation will be based on the value of the property when it was lost and not the original purchase price. For example a two year old pair of trainers will not be worth as much as a new pair.
If the prisoner is not happy with the response from the Governor then they can instigate a complaint through the internal complaints procedure. If a satisfactory response has not been received once the internal complaints procedure has been exhausted then a complaint can be made to the Prison and Probation Ombudsman (PPO).
Is a prisoner allowed to send money from their prison account to a relative or friend outside?
Yes. Prisoners are able to send cheques out in appropriate circumstances however the Governor has discretion to prevent a cheque being sent out if s/he believes the payment to be against the interests of security and good order or discipline. If a prisoner wants to send money out then they should submit an application to the finance department within the prison stating who they want to send the money to, the amount, the address and why the money is being sent. As the potential recipient you may then be asked to confirm your identity in writing.