A Step-By-Step Guide for Family Members of Prisoners

Having a loved one in prison can be a challenging and emotional experience. However, understanding the process of booking visits, the necessary identification requirements, and knowing how to contact the prison regarding concerns for the prisoner's welfare can provide some reassurance during this difficult time.

In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the essential information and procedures involved in supporting your incarcerated family member in England or Wales.

Booking Visits:

Contact the Prison: Begin by identifying the prison where your family member is incarcerated. You can find this information by searching online or contacting the Prisoner Location Service (PLS) at findaprisoner@justice.gov.uk.

Schedule the Visit: Get in touch with the prison's visit booking department to arrange a visit. Each prison has its own booking process, which may involve phone calls, online forms, or email correspondence. Provide the necessary details, including your full name, the prisoner's details, and the preferred visit date and time.

Check Visiting Rules: Familiarise yourself with the specific visiting rules and regulations of the prison. These rules may include restrictions on items allowed, dress code, and behaviour guidelines. Adhering to these rules is crucial to ensure a smooth visitation process.

Visitation Process:

Arrival and Registration: On the day of the visit, arrive at the prison's visitor reception area on time. You will need to bring identification documents (discussed in the next section) and any relevant visit confirmation or reference numbers. Follow the instructions provided by the prison staff for registration.

Security Checks: Expect to go through security checks similar to those at airports, including metal detectors and bag scans. Follow the staff's guidance and be prepared for possible restrictions on personal belongings.

Visit Duration and Conditions: Visiting times and duration vary between prisons. Confirm the allowed visit length beforehand to plan accordingly. During the visit, follow the prison's rules and regulations, maintain respectful behaviour and adhere to any restrictions or guidelines provided.

Identification Requirements:

Valid ID: Ensure you bring an accepted form of identification, such as a passport or driving license. Some prisons may accept other forms of identification, so it's best to check with the prison beforehand.

Proof of Address: In some cases, you may be required to provide proof of your current address, such as a utility bill or bank statement. Verify the specific requirements with the prison prior to your visit.

Contacting the Prison:

Safeguarding and Welfare Concerns: If you have concerns regarding the safeguarding or welfare of the prisoner, promptly contact the prison authorities. The prison's contact details can usually be found on its website or through the PLS. Inform them about your concerns and provide any relevant information that may assist them in addressing the issue.

Regular Communication: Maintain open communication with the prison by following their guidelines for contacting the prisoner. This may include sending letters, using email services, or making phone calls within specified hours. Familiarise yourself with the prison's communication policies and ensure you understand any applicable restrictions or guidelines.

Additional Useful Information:

Support Organisations: Seek assistance from support organisation's specialising in helping families of prisoners. These organisations can provide valuable guidance, emotional support, and resources to navigate the challenges associated with having a loved one in prison.

Visiting Updates: Stay updated on any changes or restrictions related to visits by regularly checking the prison's website or contacting them directly. Changes in visiting hours or procedures may occur for various reasons, including security concerns or COVID-19 restrictions.

Supporting a family member during their time in prison can be demanding, but understanding the visitation process, identification requirements, and how to address concerns regarding their welfare can ease some of the burdens. By following the steps outlined in this guide and seeking support from relevant organisations, you can navigate the challenges more effectively and maintain a connection with your incarcerated loved one.

Remember, your support and care can make a significant difference in their journey toward rehabilitation and reintegration into society.