I’m scared of going to prison – what is it like? Task
The first few days
When you start your sentence, you will go through a reception process where you will be interviewed, given a prison number and a release date, and searched to check you are not hiding anything that you should not have.
You will be able to tell a doctor or nurse if you have any prescribed medications you are prescribed, and you can talk to them about any health issues such as addiction or medical conditions.
Prison staff will tell you about prison life, rules and regulations, and how things work – this is called induction.
You have rights when you are a prisoner, and these include:
- Protection from bullying and racial harassment
- Being able to contact a solicitor
- Physical and mental healthcare: treatment is free but must be approved by a prison doctor or member of the healthcare team
Rules and regulations
Every prison has its own rules and regulations which will be explained to you during your induction.
If you follow the rules, you could earn privileges such as a better room, a single room, extra visits from family or friends, or a specific job within the prison, depending on the prison facilities.
If you break the rules, you could lose privileges, you could be kept in your room for up to 21 days, or you could be given up to 42 days extra in prison on top of your original sentence.
Prison life is different for remand prisoners. If you have not yet had a trial or you are an unconvicted prisoner, you are presumed innocent and you have special rights and privileges which your prison will explain to you. You will not share a room with a convicted prisoner, and you will be separated from them as much as possible while in prison.
You may have to share a room with one or more people, depending on the prison. You should speak to prison staff if you are worried about this or you feel unsafe.
You will probably have a TV in your room and a kettle so you can make tea and coffee. You can smoke in your room, and you are responsible for keeping it clean and tidy.
Prison staff will do regular cell checks to make sure you do not have anything in your room that you are not allowed, such as a mobile phone or SIM card.
All prisons have a daily timetable with work or education in the morning, followed by lunch, afternoon activities, an evening meal, and a period of association in the evening. Prison staff will explain your schedule during your induction.
You should be able to have a hot bath or shower at least three times a week, and you can use the toilet and sinks at any time. The prison will have a shop where you can buy items like tobacco, sweets, and toiletries such as toothpaste and shower gel.
You will probably be offered paid work in the prison workshops, kitchens, or laundries, depending on the prison facilities. A “low-risk” prisoner may be allowed to work in the community.
You may be able to choose an educational course or work towards a qualification to help you build your skills. These can range from basic skills such as learning to read and write, up to specialist skills and distance learning with the Open University.
You should be able to spend between 30 minutes and one hour outside in the open air every day, depending on the prison. Most prisons have a set time for physical exercise and sport so that you can spend time away from your room.
If you need help while you are in prison, you can ask to talk to:
- Prison staff, including a team, called Safer Custody who check to make sure people feel safe in prison
- The prison chaplain or a religious person
- Specially trained prisoners called Listeners who are trained by the Samaritans and will not tell staff what you talk about unless they are worried you will harm yourself or someone else
- The Samaritans helpline: volunteers are available 24 hours a day
- Local people called official prison visitors, who visit prisoners who may not have many people to visit them or who just want to speak with someone outside the prison
You may be given a personal case manager who will offer you regular support if prison staff think that you are at risk of bullying, suicide or self-harm.