When a person is sentenced to a term of imprisonment, they must participate in a minimum of one interview and an assessment on arrival at prison. These sessions are conducted with several purposes in mind:
- to educate the prisoner about prison rules, practices and procedures
- to advise the prisoner about the nature of their rights
- to inform the prisoner of courses available to them
- to alert the prisoner to appropriate healthcare channels.
The prisoner is assigned a prison number and their property is recorded and confiscated until the prisoner is released.
Categories of security
Prisoners are allocated to a security category based on their escape risk and the risk of causing harm to prisoners or prison staff.
Prisons reserve the right to transfer a prisoner to a different institution with a different security category at any time.
Prisoners’ rights and privileges
Prisoners’ rights include:
- protection from bullying and all forms of harassment
- access to legal counsel (for example, a solicitor)
- free healthcare.
In addition, prisoners are entitled to 30 minutes to an hour outside in the open air each day.
Prisoners who abide by the rules of the prison can also earn privileges. Under the ‘Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme’, a prisoner may be able to:
- secure more visits from family or friends
- spend more of their personal allowance each week.
The administration of privileges is not uniform across the prison system and differs according to each institution.
Special help and support
Prisoners can also obtain specialist help and support, for instance, if they have a disability, learning difficulties, drug or alcohol problems or HIV/AIDs.
Pregnancy and childcare
Pregnant prisoners who have their babies in prison can have their child kept in a mother and baby unit for the first 18 months of the child’s life. Equally, a prisoner with a child under 18 months old can apply to have their child brought into the prison system to be with them.
Children over 18 months old are cared for by the prisoner’s parents or foster parents. This is arranged by Social Services.
Education and work in prison
There are numerous courses available to enable prisoners to acquire practical life skills, such as literacy, numeracy, information technology, woodwork, engineering and horticulture – the majority of which are listed in prisoners’ Individual Learning Plans.
The majority of courses lead to externally recognised qualifications such as GCSEs, NVQs and Open University schemes.
Prisoners are also presented with (often paid) work opportunities while serving their sentence, which range from making furniture in prison workshops to electrical engineering. They can also work around the prison itself – such as in the kitchen and laundry rooms.
Prisoners considered to be ‘low-risk’ may be permitted to work outside the confines of the prison, in the wider community.