The answer to this question will depend on the area of the country the case is being heard in and the specific court at which the hearing has taken place.

In most cases a court will allocate prisoners to a prison in the local area. There are normally specific prisons that support specific courts. 

However it may be that on some occasions the local prison is full or that the situation of the prisoner requires they be sent to a specific institution that may be a bit further away. For example, female prisoners from across the North West will, in the main, be taken to HMP Styal in Cheshire as it is the only female institution in the area.

The solicitor handling the case should be able to tell you the name of the prison to which your loved one has been taken. If your loved one’s court appearance was in the past few days, you can ring the court and ask to speak to the cells, who will be able to tell you which prison they went to.

Prisoner Location Service

If you are trying to trace a prisoner who has been in prison for some time, or someone who has been transferred to another prison, you can contact the Prisoner Location Service.

They will only take queries in writing or by e-mail.

It takes about 2 weeks as the Prisoner Location Service will check that the prisoner is happy for you to know where they are before they reply.


Or Write to:

Prisoner Location Service PO Box 17594 Birmingham B2 2QP

You must include:

· your name, or the organisation you represent

· your date of birth

· your address including postcode

· name of the person you want to find

· the reason you want to find them – for example you’re their solicitor, or a family member

· any other names they may have used

· their date of birth

When will I be able to visit my family member/partner after the hearing?

Once a prisoner has been taken back to the court cells it usually takes a bit of time before they are transferred from the court to a local prison. On arrival at the prison they will then be interviewed and logged onto the prison system. It is only possible to book a prison visit once this process is complete and it may be the following day before a prisoner’s details appear on the computer system.

Consequently it is unlikely that you will be able to book a visit for the same day. However it should be possible, with the exception of cases falling just prior to a weekend, to book a visit within 48 hours of a court appearance.

What happens when they arrive at prison?

When a prisoner first arrives at prison they go through an induction process known as ‘reception’. The reception procedure ensures a prisoner has everything they need and identifies any issues such as medical conditions that may require medication, or mental health issues that may need to be addressed.

The first thing to occur is the listing of a prisoner’s property. A prisoner will be allowed to keep certain items with them but anything else is labelled and stored for safe-keeping. Any items stored by the prison should be returned on release. 

Once this is complete a prisoner is then allowed to take a shower and will be allocated their prison number.

The prisoner will then be interviewed by a member of the healthcare team who will assess the prisoner’s wellbeing to ensure they receive the proper care they require whilst in prison. This includes finding out what medication they are currently taking and ensuring where necessary they receive any immediate treatment. The information provided by the prisoner is treated as confidential.

The healthcare assessment is followed by a reception interview conducted by a prison officer or member of the probation service. During the interview the officer talks through the basic procedures, addressing any questions a prisoner might have and identifying any further issues. A ‘personal’ or ‘group’ officer is assigned to the prisoner who is their first point of contact should they require any additional advice or support or if they need to make a complaint.

The final stage of a prisoner’s reception involves an induction presentation which focus’s on informing the prisoner about the way the prison works, the services available to them and the responsibilities that each prisoner must undertake to fulfill.

What are the differences between prisoners on remand and sentenced prisoners?

A prisoner on remand is treated according to the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Accordingly they receive greater entitlement to privileges such as visits and money and the regime differs. In general prisoners on remand are held separately to convicted prisoners although due to space constraints it may be necessary at times for an unconvicted prisoner to share a cell with a sentenced prisoner.

Resettlement prison

A resettlement prison has the specific role of preparing for release prisoners and help minimise the risk of re-offending by managing their reintegration into the community. Often these prisons will be close to the home of the prisoner. Prisoners serving 12 months or under will serve all of their time in a resettlement prison and receive a tailored package of supervision and support on their release. Longer serving prisoners will go to resettlement prisons when they have at least 3 months left on their sentence and an identified resettlement need. The resettlement package will concentrate on the preparation for release and resettlement, help to reduce institutionalisation and teach prisoners to take personal responsibility. They will also be tested on their ability to function independently and within the community. There are approximately 70 Resettlement Prisons across England and Wales.

This page was updated April 2020