What can I expect from my first day in prison?
Most people will first go to their local B Category Prison after court. You’ll be taken there in a van, also known as a ‘sweat box’ because it is hot and cramped. At reception your details will be taken and you’ll be put in a holding cell. It is more than likely other prisoners will be in there with you. Our advice is to do your best to stay calm and recognise that the situation is out of your control; you’re just going to have to ‘go with the flow’. You will be given a meal at some point, a strip-search, your property will be itemised, you’ll see a nurse, a prison officer will interview you and give you a PIN that enables you to use the telephone, and then you will be taken to your cell.
Will I have to share a cell?
Almost definitely. If you have any particular needs such as a disability, you should tell the interviewing officer or wing staff. If you have a history, feud, or debt with/to anyone in the prison that would mean you couldn’t share with them, you should tell the interviewing officer. If you wish to share with someone you came into the prison with you can ask the interviewing officer but they may or may not grant your request. We do not advise you to lie in an attempt to get a single cell; that will only cause you more problems. The amount of single cells in each prison varies and it is likely you can be awarded one for doing certain jobs or sometimes for behaving in an exemplary fashion.
When and how can I make a phone call?
The phone systems work differently depending on the prison. At most HMPs the reception officer will have given you a PIN. This has a small amount of money on it and you use it by dialling the number you want to call, pressing hash, and then entering your PIN. Do not lose this PIN or lend it to anyone. Some prisons have in-cell phones that you can use 24 hours a day, others you will have to wait until you are out of your cell to use the wing phone. To begin with you can call anyone from your PIN (but do not call anyone you should not have contact with); however when that initial money runs out, you will only be able to call approved numbers. That’s why it is essential you find the form on the wing to add numbers to your PIN as soon as possible, fill it out, and put it in the correct box to be processed. To add money to your PIN, you order it on your ‘canteen’ sheet or at the kiosk.
What is a ‘canteen’ sheet and kiosk?
Some prisons work more digitally than others. Some have ‘kiosks’ either in the cells or on the wings where you can fill out digital forms, add phone credit, and order ‘canteen’ – whereas other prisons still use paper for all of these tasks. Your ‘canteen’ sheet is a list of items you may purchase. There’s everything from mouthwash, to Maltesers, to prayer beads, and juggling balls. The amount of money you have available in your ‘spends’ will be shown at the top of the page. This is also where you order phone credit; 1 order of phone credit equals one pound. The day and system for delivery of canteen varies between prisons.
So how do I get more money in my prison accounts?
Initially you will be poor. Do not borrow anything as you will just get yourself into debt. You will be paid a small wage each week, either for being unemployed or for doing a job; better jobs attract better wages but on average you can expect to get somewhere between £9 and £35 a week depending on what you are doing and where. Money can also be sent in to you by your friends and family using this website: https://www.gov.uk/send-prisoner-money It is very fast and reliable but that money will not be immediately available to you as it goes into your ‘private’ account. You normally cannot use money in your private account to buy anything. However, between £25 and £35 transfers from it to your spends account each week. You can then use the money in the spends account to purchase items from the canteen.