Thursday, 2 October 2014

Off to Prison? My Packing List

I’m writing this blog post to give some practical advice to a couple of readers who anticipate that they might be going to prison in the near future. Hopefully they – and anyone else in the same position – will find this information useful, while people who are just interested to learn about life in the nick might like to know what you are – and aren’t – allowed in your cell.

In the dock and going down?
I was very lucky when I went to jail for two reasons. The first was that back then there were many fewer restrictions on what property you could take in with you. The second was that the young dock officer with whom I’d become friendly during what had been a long trial was a great source of useful information. Throughout my sentence I was still grateful for his help and advice.

Exactly what personal property a prisoner can be permitted to retain in his or her possession inside the nick is regulated by what is now called the National Facilities List. It appears as an annex to the revised Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) system contained in Prison Service Instruction (PSI) 30/2013 which came into operation on 1 November 2013.

Although there were previous Facilities Lists, these tended to be local affairs and there was little uniformity over specifics. One nick would allow cons to wear shorts in the summer, another wouldn’t. 

Banned: all hoodies
Some lower security establishments were very lax over whether inmates could own items of clothing that were wholly or mainly black, others were absolutely inflexible. A couple of Cat-Ds (open prisons) even permitted prisoners to wear hoodies, which as a rule were banned across the whole prison estate because they make it easier for cons to hide their faces from staff and CCTV. Now the ban is absolute.

The new Facilities List (Annex F of PSI 30/2013) is supposed to be national – well in England and Wales, at least, since Scotland has its own system. I can see that this makes a lot more sense. Having moved between six prisons during my stretch inside, I grew used to arriving in a ‘sweat box’ (prison transport vehicle) at Reception and then being told I couldn’t keep half the personal property I’d been allowed to have at the previous nick. This caused a fair few cons to kick off, as well as all sorts of negotiations with Reception screws.

Grey prison trackie bottoms
One of the biggest single changes that impacts on all convicted male prisoners is that they have to wear prison-issue clothing for at least the first two weeks while they are on so-called ‘Entry level’ within the revised IEP system. This highly vindictive policy was introduced deliberately by Chris Grayling and his sidekicks in the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) for the sole purpose of making going into a prison an even more miserable experience than it already was. It reversed the trend of the previous decade which had been to ‘re-humanise’ cons by allowing those who conformed to the system and behaved well to retain and wear their own clothes when not at work.

The new policy has already cost the British taxpayer an undisclosed amount in additional clothing expenditure as the Stores at many nicks had long ago run down their stocks of prison gear, mainly because so few prisoners (mainly those being punished on the Basic regime) tended to wear it. In effect, the old IEP system allowed families and friends to either buy or post in clothing for prisoners, or for cons to buy it for themselves. Only those with absolutely no money would end up wearing prison greys (or maroons). 

Now every male coming into the adult prison system ends up being stripped naked and issued kit that is often old, grubby and sometimes stained with unmentionable substances. It serves to add to the whole sense of humiliation and that, of course, was Mr Grayling’s ideological objective.

Essential for prison showers
At some Cat-B local prisons, even cons on Standard level don’t get to wear any personal clothing, so you can find yourself forced to wear greys for at least three and a half months (two weeks on Entry level, three months on Standard) before you can reach the dizzy heights of Enhanced level and get your own clothing back. It’s not a great sensation being compelled to wear boxers, socks and other clothing that dozens – maybe hundreds – of other blokes have worn before you, especially when prisons are notorious for outbreaks of scabies and other nasty infections or skin conditions.

A well-packed 'bang-up bag'
In fact, as I’ve pointed out in a previous post, I wore prison kit myself for the best part of six months because the area in which I was then working was close to the perimeter wall and any cons permitted in that zone had to wear prison kit at all times. I didn’t find it a hardship, but then I and my co-workers were lucky in that we had the pick of all the best prison clothing, including new t-shirts and jogging bottoms, and could have clean items every day if we really wanted to. It was just one of the perks of the job.

So what would I take with me now, based on the new National Facilities List? Well, I would pack my ‘bang-up bag’ and ensure that I had it in the dock with me at the time of conviction (or sentencing if I’d been on bail). By the way, if you are having a jury trial, make sure you keep your holdall out of sight of the jurors – it does undermine the whole judicial process if, before they have even retired to consider their verdict, it looks like you are already convinced that you’ll be going down in the end. At least try to play the game.

My packing list would include the following:
  • A decent sized holdall (to bring your possessions in and out of jail). It will usually be kept in storage while you are inside unless you get to a Cat-D (open prison).
  • Two pairs of comfortable trainers (absolutely essential, keep one pair for the gym)
  • At least one pair of comfortable jeans (not black) with a belt (small buckle)
  • A couple of pairs of trackie bottoms (not black)
  • A couple of polo shirts (not black)
  • A couple of warm jumpers or sweatshirts (not black, no hoods)
  • A fleece (not black, unlined, no padding or quilting, no hood)
  • A beanie-style hat (not black, unlined) – especially if you’ll be in the nick for the winter
  • A pair of gloves (not black, unlined)
  • Two pairs of gym shorts (also good for in-cell wear, even if you don’t go to the gym)
  • A couple of gym vests or t-shirts (not black)
  • 10 pairs of boxers or pants
  • 10 pairs of new socks
  • A dressing gown (optional, but absolutely useful - makes you feel human. No hood)
  • A couple of pairs of pyjama bottoms (no-one under 70 wears pyjama tops in the nick)
  • A couple of medium size shower towels (not black and white ones will soon be grey)
  • A face flannel 
  • A tea towel or two (you’ll be doing your own washing up in your cell)
  • A pair of good quality shower flip-flops (essential - prison showers can be very grubby)
  • A see-through plastic wash-kit bag with your own toothbrush, razor and spare blades, nail-clippers (no metal files – for obvious reasons)
  • A couple of pairs of foam earplugs (not silicon ones - get a good sleep even if your pad-mate snores like a freight train) 
  • A mains or battery razor (if you don’t wet shave), not rechargeable or with the 2-pin travel adapter type plug
  • A set of mains or battery (not rechargeable) hair clippers – no scissors
  • A small battery or mains (not rechargeable) radio/CD player with headphones (in-the-ear type) – no Short Wave allowed, nor any item that has a USB port (because of recharging illicit mobile phones)
  • A small battery alarm clock (not digital)
  • A diary and a clear plastic pen
  • An address/telephone number book
  • A few family photos
  • Copies of any relevant vocational qualifications (can help to get a decent job in some nicks)
  • Wear any jewellery you want to keep in the nick: watch, wedding ring, neck chain etc)
Don’t take in anything that is branded to any sports team or has national flags or logos. For example, national team tops or team colours are likely to be confiscated. This is a national prison policy to prevent team rivalry or fights between supporters inside the nick.

National flags or logos: banned
Because of the new National Facilities List, the outer clothing (and maybe the underwear) will be logged on your ‘prop’ (property) card and put into storage when you arrive at Reception. However, most of the other stuff you should be allowed to keep. The rest should be issued to you once you get to Standard level (or Enhanced in a few Cat-B locals). Believe me, it will make any stay as a guest of Her Majesty a bit more bearable.

All electric items will also need to go through the PAT (portable appliance testing) process to ensure it is safe and meets Health and Safety standards. This can take anything from a few days to a few weeks, so be patient. By the way, if you are already qualified to do PAT testing, it might be worth taking your certificate with you when you go to prison – there’s usually work in Receptions for people with those skills and it is a cushy job.

If you are on bail, try to find out the most likely prisons you’ll be sent to from court. These will usually be Cat-B locals where you’ll be kept until you’ve been categorised (unless you are a provisional A-cat, in which case it’s unlikely you’ll be on bail to start with). Give them a call and check what the local rules are on property coming in with you straight from court.

M and M catalogues: in most prisons
Another option is to prepare what is called a ‘Reception parcel’ of clothing ready before you go into prison. It can contain clothes, towels, dressing gown etc but you will need to put in a Governor’s app (application) and get written approval before it can be sent in to you. Most prisons set down that a Reception parcel has to be sent in within a few weeks of arrival or of getting onto Standard level in the IEP system. Again, you can check this in advance or ask a family member to do so before posting. Under the new IEP rules these parcels cannot include any electrical or battery-operated items, only clothing.

Getting in as much personal clothing and possessions (up to the set limits) on your initial reception is always a good idea as buying new stuff through the prison catalogues (usually Very or M and M for clothing, Argos for most other stuff, Amazon for books, DVDs and CDs and Gemma Records for games) can be very expensive and take weeks or even months to arrive. So if you want to save yourself (and your family) money and avoid delays and frustration, plan ahead and make sure you pack wisely for your involuntary visit to the slammer.


  1. Do you know why rechargeable items aren't allowed?

    1. Thanks for your question. Yes, it's supposedly because anything that recharges can be adapted to recharge a battery in an illegal mobile phone. That's also the reason that USB ports on other types of electrical equipment are banned.

    2. I don't understand why prisons don't use mobile phone signal blockers to prevent mobile use. I know the argument is disruption outside the prison but my understanding is that their radius of effectiveness can be altered to requirements ( +/- 10 metres) so it shouldn't be too difficult to sort out.

    3. Thanks for your comment. I think many prisons do use this system, but it evidently just doesn't work! Some security departments also have mobile detectors and screws walk round wings, especially when cons are all bang-up behind their doors. However, this also takes staff resources and with the current shortages, I doubt this will be seen as a high priority.

    4. I might be wrong, but I think Sony PlayStations have a USB port and those are allowed in prison.


    5. Thanks for you comment, Peter. If you check PSI 30/2013 the rule is that any USB port on an item that is otherwise approved must be deactivated or security sealed.

      In my experience (involving a DAB radio), security staff just can't be bothered with this as it involves time and effort, so it's easier to just say no and refuse to issue the equipment at all. There is also a degree of control at the ordering stage as only approved electrical items can be ordered from Argos anyway and having a USB port is usually a reason to block an item.

    6. So if you bring your own one candy block your USB

  2. This may be a daft question, who washes your own underwear? If laundry washes it, how do you know your own clothes will be returned to you?

    1. Thanks for your question. It's not a daft thing to ask at all! In most nicks there will be a set washing day for personal clothing. Every con gets issued with a white net washing bag and this has a tag on which your cell number is written in waterproof marker pen. You place your own items in this bag and put it in the designated place (usually in a big metal barrow on wheels or up against the barred wing gate) immediately after your cell door is opened on the morning of the official washing day for your particular wing.

      By the late afternoon you should receive your net bag back (either dropped off outside your cell door or (more likely) left on the ground floor in a laundry trolley or on the table-tennis table! You then have to wade through 100 or more net bags to find yours. Some cons tie a piece of coloured cloth or a shoelace to theirs so they are more easily spotted - a bit like a suitcase at the airport baggage carousel!

      A few Cat-B local prisons don't have facilities to wash private clothes unless you are on the Enhanced level. This means that everyone on Basic, Entry and Standard levels has to wear prison kit.

      Some people in Cat-B locals still have their own underwear, especially if they've been inside a while, or at least before PSI 30/2013 came into force last November. If washing facilities are only for Enhanced level cons, they just have to wash their own boxers and socks in the cell sinks and then dry them on the heating pipes (at least in the winter). You can buy cheap washing powder (£1) on the canteen sheet. Alternatively, you can ask a mate who is on Enhanced level to let you put your shreddies and socks in his net washing bag - for which you may have to pay him using a tin of tuna or a bar of chocolate from the canteen sheet.

    2. Shreddies are chemical warfare underpants, right?

    3. Thanks for your question. It tends to be an Army term used for any type of underwear! Also known as trollies or undercrackers.

      I believe the term shreddies may hark back to the old National Service style aertex cloth which lads thought looked like Shreddies the cereal, but that's just a guess! We used the term back in the 1980s, so long before the new brand of underwear was launched!

  3. Great to have that list - I know it is different place to place but never thought you'd be allowed that much. Must be great to get into your own clothes instead of prison ones. Does much stuff you have 'go missing' in prison?

    You said when you replied to me before to ask any questions - I know you might have covered it already but I'll just ask anyway. It's mostly about what to expect at first.

    * How do the guards treat you when you are a new prisoner going in? What are you meant to call them - Sir/Mr/Boss whatever?

    * Is there much shit between different races/nationality/areas? Do people tend to stick to their own like that?

    * Do they put you in a cell with someone around your own age or for the same offence or how do they decide? I'm 25

    * What do you think about whether a 5 year old should visit you in prison? How are visits overall?

    * I don't know if you have written about it before but if you could go through what is likely to happen from being in the dock until you get to a cell in the prison. I've seen bits and pieces about it on the net but wouldn't mind hearing about it from you as you are so detailed. I think this is the day and the thing I dread most an dnot really knowing what to expect.

    Sorry for all the questions but even if you can cover 1 or 2 it would be great.


    1. Hi Paul, no problem. This is what the blog is really intended for - to answer questions!

      When you get taken down from the dock it will be via a back door by one of the dock officers. Once you are through the door you'll probably get handcuffed (standard practice). You then go down to the cells under the court and they'll take and inventory all your personal valuables, including cash which will get put into your prison account.

      Cash gets transferred to your spending account (for canteen etc) every week. The amount depends on your IEP level and to start with you should get £10.50 a week for the first two weeks, then £15.50 a week once you get to Standard level and £25.50 when you get Enhanced. This is in addition to any prison pay for work or education courses.

      Next you'll be put into a holding cell with a cup of tea to wait for the transport to the local Cat-B nick. Your solicitor may come down to visit you. Eventually, when enough prisoners are ready to travel, you'll get handcuffed and then put in the 'sweatbox' (prison transport van) locked into a tiny cubicle cell. My advice is make sure you use the WC before you get in the van!

      When you get to the nick, the Reception staff will usually be fine. The last thing they want is a first-timer in from court having a breakdown on their shift. They will be business-like and as long as you follow their instructions, you'll be fine. The initial strip search upsets some people, but it should only take a couple of minutes and they've seen it all before, so don't sweat it.

      You'll get interviewed, photographed and issued with your ID card, prison gear (tracksuit, t-shirt etc), as well as your blue plastic mug, plate and bowl, a towel, some basic toiletries etc. There will also be an initial medical interview and the duty nurse will ask you a few questions. The whole process is usually very routine.

    2. Depending which prison you go to, you may spend a couple of days in the Induction unit or wing which is where you'll learn the ropes (probably from an Insider like me) and do your education tests (literacy/numeracy) and interviews with the resettlement team to see what your future plans will be. They want to know whether you'll have a job to go to on release, your accommodation plans etc.

      I suggest calling the uniformed officers 'Guv' (or 'Boss' if you're down south) and 'Miss', while you call the suits Sir or Ma'am. Female governors like to be called Ma'am (like the Army).

      Once you get on a wing, try to learn the officers' surnames and then you can call them Mr or Miss X. That personalises dealing with them and they are more likely to get to know your name too. Officially they are supposed to call you 'Mr Y', but in practice I was OK with either my surname (Army again) or my first name once they got to know me.

      You'll get assigned a personal officer (and maybe a shadow for when they are on leave or off duty). My advice is try to get to know your PO as they can do quite a lot of stuff for you (if they really want to).

      Some nicks can have a lot of divisions (gangs, groups etc). However, I tried to get on with pretty much everyone and I had some good black and Asian mates. Just be careful not to get sucked into any kind of gang activity - it never ends well.

      To be honest, when it comes to cell sharing (pad-shares) it just depends where they have a space. At a Cat-B local, where everyone other than A-cats go to start with, you'll almost certainly be 'two'd up' (sharing) because of the overcrowding at the moment. The only issue is smoking or non smoking as they aren't supposed to make non-smokers share with those who do smoke (although it can happen). You could be in with a 21-year old or a 71-year old and there's no distinction by offence, other than sex offenders who usually get placed in what is called the Vulnerable Prisoner Unit (VPU) aka the 'Nonce Wing' or 'on the Numbers' (from Rule 45).

      My advice is see who you get put in with first and then, when you've made a few mates, ask if you can 'pad-up' together. Since 80 percent of adult male prisoners smoke, you should have plenty of choice. If you find you're padded up with someone who is still on drugs, get a quick cell move. If they are hiding gear in the pad and it gets found during a search ('cell spin') you can end up on a charge too (getting 'nicked').

      Visits are fine. Loads of cons have their families and kids visit and they are usually special play areas for the little ones, so don't sweat that. At that age it can be a big adventure, so keep things light. Visits halls allow your visitors to bring in some cash to buy food, sweets, soft drinks etc, so it can be made into a bit of a picnic for the kid.

      Above all, don't panic about jail. Keep your head and never, ever get involved with debt or drugs. These are the issues that can cause you massive grief in the nick, including - in the worst case scenario - having pressure put on your family to smuggle stuff in for the gangsters and that is a whole world of shit and misery you don't want or need.

      Feel free to ask any other questions. That's what I'm here for!

    3. That's a really nice, comprehensive answer. :-) You're doing a fine job here! I'm definitely hooked on this blog. I hope I never go to prison, but if I do, I know where to get good advice and moral support.

    4. Thanks for your comment. I'm glad to hear that you are finding the blog interesting. Hopefully I'll have time for another post tomorrow.

    5. Nice guy you Alex, straight talking, no bullshit, doing your bit to help people. It goes a long way mate.

    6. Nice guy you Alex, straight talking, no bullshit, doing your bit to help people. It goes a long way mate.

  4. Was that you on LBC this morning, Alex?

    1. Hi. Nope, sorry, not me this time! What was the subject being discussed?

    2. Drat, I was convinced it was you! A very sensible caller named Alex talking about Chris G's latest ludicrous suggestions for abolishing human rights legislation and putting the UK on a par with Belarus.

    3. Sadly not! I imagine that he and I share very similar views about Mr G, but I can't take any credit for what sounds like an interesting interview.

    4. When was this on the radio? I can listen to it on play back.

    5. It was Nick Ferrari's show this morning around quarter/ten to nine. James O'Brien also talked about Mr G's latest piece of incompetent drivel.

  5. ps2 are allowed but the USB posts are supaglued. You've not said anything about volumetric control. When I was a member of an IMB (you ve not said anything about that either) sorting out what happens to boxes of stuff going from one establishment to another was a significant amount of my time.
    And youve not said anything about cell clearances either.

  6. What's it like going to toilet in the cell with mate watching. Plus the smell. Vas

    1. Thanks for the question, Vas. Well, as you can imagine, it's not pleasant. For those of us who have stronger constitutions (ex-Army, boarding school, rugby clubs etc), it's not a big deal. Most shared cells do either have a 'privacy screen' (a bit of board on one side of the WC) or a nylon shower curtain round it.

      I have been in a couple of cells, briefly, where there was nothing, so you just got on with it. Your pad-mate might be sleeping, watching TV or have his nose in a book, so it's about reaching a mutual understanding between you.

      I have known some more controlling pad-mates who refuse to allow the other guy to use the WC for anything other than a piss during bang-up. This means that they both have to wait until unlock and then use the wing recess WCs. However, I've not been in that situation myself.

      At one Cat-C nick we had a little en-suite with a proper door and a vent, so that was a major bonus. We used to take it in turns to buy a £1 solid air-freshner from the canteen to make things smell a bit nicer. In some nicks you can also buy smokeless incense (supposedly for religious worship, although most of us used to the mask the nasty smells in the cell!).

      My mate Jack Hill, another ex-con, recently did a video blog about this very issue on YouTube:

  7. Thanks again for all your answers. Since I came across the blog I've really found out alot. I've 3 weeks to go now so it's starting to feel very real but I honestly feel better about things since coming on here. I saw one of those 'sweatbox' vans you were talking about go by and thinking in a few weeks I will be in one. I've been told to expect something between 18 months - 3 years so hoping for the best.

    I know that I'll just want to do my time as quickly and quietly as possible - makes sense to try and get a cellmate who thinks the same. You said about if drugs were found in your cell even if they were not yours you would get a 'nicking'. Is that because you wouldn't grass on your cell mate and then you would both end up punished because of it?

    What type of things can you get a nicking for and what happens if you do? What type of punishment would you get for these and who decides? Can you end up having to do extra time inside because of them? I know you only do half the sentence you get.

    Once you are in there do you and your cell get searched much?

    Good to hear about the visits. I was 19 when I had my son and he is 5 now. I've not told him yet about what is going to happen. He lives with my ex but I see him regularly and he is my hero. My ex wants me to say that I am going away to work as she does not want him to let him visit me in prison and she won't bring him. Still trying to sort all that out but will have to tell him something by next weekend. I want to be honest with him but dreading talking to him about it.


    1. Paul, it's difficult to answer some of your questions as each prison differs so much from another, I can only pass on my experiences from what I saw during my time inside.

      When you first go in you will be put with a random cellmate. Some prisons try to match a new intake with somebody suitable, others just don't care and will put you in any bed that is available. The worst case I saw was a very nervous first timer spending his first night in prison in a cell with a guy who was getting released the very next morning.

      You will soon find out if you're compatible pad mates. Some are overbearing, some very helpful. I was first put in with a notorious murderer who turned out to be one of the kindest people I've ever met. Never judge the guy on what they've done - it's all about how they treat you.

      You can change cells very easily - prison officers want to keep the peace on the wings and if you're padded up with a 'mate' things stay calm and they'll be happy to move you if you find a pal. I didn't realise this for a while and suffered a few weeks with idiots before I got moved in with somebody I trusted and got along with.

      A nicking will not give you extra time inside. A simple breach of the rules may reduce your privileges or put you 'down the block' (solitary confinement) . The only way you will get extra time is if you commit a real criminal offence inside i.e. assaulting an officer/inmate etc. This would have to be dealt with by a real court rather than the kangaroo courts heard by prison governors for minor breaches of the rules.

      Searches don't happen very often. You will be strip searched on reception and any other time you leave or come back into the prison (court, hospital appointments etc.) it's not a particularly pleasant experience but probably just as bad for the officer doing it. They should never leave you completely naked - top half, then bottom half. I never had to bend over but then can make you.

      Cell searches (or pad spins) are more common. My 'pad' was searched 3 times in 2 days. It happens, if you've nothing to hide there's nothing to worry about. Searches can be intelligence lead or the whole wing gets searched for whatever reason. Mostly the 'contraband' recovered were additional pillows.

      I'm not really in a position to comment about your son visiting - I don't have kids myself. My young nephew visited - a little older than your lad - he found the experience very exciting. He saw an officers utility belt (handcuffs, baton etc) and asked him if he had a tazer. If so, could he borrow it. Prison vists are a strange experience, when I visited a guy there was a young, pre=school, lad before me at the security check. The prison officer had to frisk him but make a big joke of how she had the tickle him. The search was over within seconds after many giggles from the lad. Very well done by that officer.

    2. Hi Paul, I'm glad you're finding the blog helpful - we must be doing something right! As you are already aware, you'll only serve half of whatever sentence is handed down, with the rest on licence. Depending on the offence, you may also be eligible for Home Detention Curfew (HDC or 'tag') so that could take a couple of months off the custodial term as well. You should be told about HDC eligibility shortly after you get to the nick. You'll also be given a sheet of paper which will breakdown the parts of your sentence by specific dates.

      The rule on charges 'nickings' for having unauthorised items in your possession is always a potential problem in a shared cell. There are special 'tests' in these cases and I'm going to post on the whole issue of cell-shares shortly. I'll explain how the system is supposed to work in that post.

      Given the present staff shortages in the prison system, I'd guess that most searches at the moment will be 'on suspicion' that a prisoner has an unauthorised item. That can include cons behaving in a shifty manner, bulges in pockets or inside clothing etc.

      Most nickings will only result in 'losses' (loss of privileges or earnings, although you'll still have to work!) They can also mean you getting down-graded from Enhanced to Standard level, or even down to Basic for a while. In more serious cases you might get a set number of days down in the Block (segregation unit). That's pretty boring (no rented TV or many personal possessions) but it is bearable. I've done it and survived!

      Only the most serious offences - including violence, possession of controlled drugs or mobile phones etc - get referred to what is called the Independent Adjudicator (a judge) who comes into the prison and presides over a kind of trial. The judge can award extra days on a sentence.

      Obviously, very serious crimes - especially inflicting injuries on prison officers or GBH/ABH against another con - can be referred to the local police and in those cases they could be a full trial in a Crown Court. For both internal adjudications by a judge (rather than a governor) and for outside court trials a solicitor or barrister is usually representing the con.

      Screws are supposed to do regular security checks on cells ("bolts and bars" as it's called), but I gather that shortages of wing staff mean these are getting rarer, especially in Cat-C nicks. Occasionally there might be a wing 'spin' of every cell, but that only tends to happen when there's been a major security breach (ie a kitchen knife or a workshop tool is reported missing). Then there may be a general shakedown during which any contraband found will be confiscated and some nickings handed out.

      You'll get pat-down searches fairly regularly, especially when leaving work-places where tools or knives are used. These are very quick and routine - less intrusive than most airport rub-downs.

      Obviously what you tell your son about your situation is a matter to be decided between you and his mum. However, my advice is be truthful, especially if you hope he'll come for visits.

      You could say something along the lines that "daddy made a mistake and has to go and live in a special place for a while, but because he is very sorry he'll be back soon." Kids are pretty intelligent and telling them porkies is never a good idea - in my own experience!

      As the comment above also points out, a prison visit for a young kid can be made into a special treat, so don't assume it has to be all doom and gloom. Kids can pick up our emotions, so try to make the visit fun for them. If you feel you need to offload yourself, my advice is do that on a visit when the kid isn't present.

  8. Is there a particular make/model of personal radio favoured by prisoners?


    1. Thanks for your question, Peter. Not really. I think it just depends what's available from the Argos catalogue at the time. Obviously any radio that has SW is off the agenda because it might pick up officers' radios. In theory, a governor can give permission for a radio with SW capability, but in practice it's not going to be given for security reasons.

      Most cons would want something that has a CD player, because that's the only medium for pre-recorded music permitted (other than music DVDs). Even a prisoner on Basic can request permission to purchase a radio, presumably so they don't go out of their minds (although some do anyway).

      Because of 'volumetric control' (limits on the amount of property allowed in possession) the days of massive 'boom boxes' appear to be over. I've not seen many on the wings. The preference seems to be for compact music systems (radio/CD).

  9. Do cons play guitars in their cells, do they use their radios as amps?

    1. Thanks for your question. Some cons do have guitars in their cells if they are on at least Standard level of the Incentives and Earned Privileges system. They have to save up to buy them from the Argos catalogue.

      There has recently been a climbdown by the Ministry of Justice because in November 2013 steel-stringed guitars were banned. However, recently the ban was relaxed.

      I've never come across cons having electric guitars in their cells. There are some prison bands and they are allowed access to such instruments and can practice together, but not in cells, so the issue of using radios as amps wouldn't arise.

  10. Just wanted to say how interesting and informative I have found this blog. I never took much notice of the prison system until a friend got sentence. I have been shocked by some of the inspections reports that I have read. However I wondered if you would answer a question, you mentioned above about saving up for a guitar. Do prisoners have to save up over a number of months within their weekly limits or could a relative send money to enable them to make a large purchase such as guitar. Thanks, Sally

    1. Thank you for your comments and question, Sally. I'm glad that you're finding the blog interesting. I'm really amazed by how much interest there is and by the fact that according to Google+ the blog has had over 325,000 hits in the three months since it was launched.

      I think most of us are in the same situation. Until prison directly impact on ourselves or someone we know, it doesn't really affect us personally. Quite a few cons were themselves fully paid up members of the 'hang 'em and flog 'em' brigade before they ended up in the slammer. I imagine that applies to a fair number of former MPs and ex-ministers whose collars were felt by Inspector Knacker.

      To answer your specific question, prisoners can usually only purchase items from catalogues if they use cash that appears in what is called their 'spends' accounts. This is a combination of prison wages and any private cash they have been sent by family or friends or from private pensions (all state pensions are confiscated by the state while a con is inside). Also, the prisoner has to be on the correct level within the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) system. If I remember rightly from memory, a guitar is allowed for prisoners on Standard or Enhanced.

      There used to be a special system whereby a prisoner could apply to the governor to purchase one or two 'big' items a year (ie a stereo system, a DVD player or a musical instrument) if they had sufficient funds in their main prison account (from which their spending money is are drawn down weekly). I'm not entirely sure, but I think that this system may have been stopped by Chris Grayling's revised IEP rules introduced on 1 November 2013. I'll ask a mate who is still inside and check that.

    2. Thanks for your detailed answer. I would be interested to know what you mate says about the current rules, but don't go to great lengths to find out more info. I was just wondering about larger purchases such as guitars etc and not for any particular purpose. Sally

  11. Hi Alex,

    Can I please check which of the following additional items you would recommend taking in / would be allowed if possible?

    These are taken from other websites / books I have been reading

    1) Plastic cup, bowl, plate and cutlery
    2) Cash (as much as you can afford, to be debited into your spends account)
    3) Cheap watch (is digital allowes or only analogue
    4) All the clothes you listed above but only in grey colours (apparently white and black are not allowed as these clash with screws uniforms. is this true?)
    5) Thermals (grey only)
    6) Woolen hat (grey only)
    7) Medication you use with doctor's note
    8) Paperback books
    9) Twenty fags (even if you don't smoke, can be traded with other prisoners)
    10) AA and AAA batteries
    11) Paperback books
    12) Stamps
    13) Hand washing poweder
    14) Aspirin or paracetomol (how easy is this to get through and are you allowed to keep painkillers in your cells? I have a leg injury which requires the use of painkillers when it gets especially bad, how good where the prison doctors at prescribing these and would the screws allow you to keep in them in your pad?)

    Thanks again for your sterling efforts

    Tommy (soon to be sentenced)

    1. Hi, Tommy. Thanks for your questions. Always happy to advise. Glad to read you are finding the blog helpful.

      And seriously, don't worry too much about going inside... it really isn't too bad if you keep well clear of drugs and debt! Any idea of what sort of time you're looking at?

      OK. No need to take any cutlery or crockery. These days china isn't generally allowed except in Cat-D (open nicks), although you can sometimes buy a 'pot' (china coffee mug) on the canteen sheet for a couple of quid. You'll be issued with a blue plastic plate, bowl and mug, plus plastic cutlery either in Reception, in Induction or when you get to the wing.

      If you can take £200 in cash or more, then that should see you OK for a good while. You'll only be able to spend a maximum of £10.50 per week for the first two weeks until you get onto Standard level. Then it will go up to £15.50 p/w. Never get cheques sent in. They take forever to clear. Postal Orders are much better and quicker.

      Any cheap watch is fine. I actually wore an old and not very flashy Rolex throughout my sentence. No-one ever noticed, except one mate who had one himself. However, I'd recommend something that is self-winding (ie no batteries) unless you're doing a short stretch. Getting a watch battery when you're in the slammer can be a massive ball-ache!

      Clothing: Yes, definitely no black, no white (particularly shirts) - as these are kanga uniform colours. Not necessary to stick to grey. Lighter shades of blue, green etc are fine. When you arrive in Reception, all private clothing is likely to be put in storage until you are off Entry level. Maybe they'll let you keep pants and socks. Keep your fingers crossed!

      Thermals might be a problem, as these tend to be for older or infirm prisoners, but probably worth a shot. Beanie hat should be fine, but not lined or quilted inside and definitely not black.

      Any medication will be handed over via Reception to healthcare, along with any medical records etc. These should either be issued back by healthcare or you'll have to collect them daily. Depends on the type of medication.

      Sadly, I doubt that any paperback books will get through Reception these days since the rules changed on 1 November 2013. Maybe take a couple with you, but don't be surprised if the Reception screws put them in your stored property box. If you then get moved to another nick, you might be lucky and get the books issued by the next Reception as they are on your prop card. It's a bit of a lottery, to be honest.

      Batteries: they may left you keep these, although no rechargeables. I was allowed a pack of 12 normal batteries but that was a few years ago. If they are already in razors or portable radios, you should be OK. You can buy batteries on the canteen sheet.

      Stamps. Take around 20 with you and put them inside your telephone and address book. You should be allowed them. You normally get one free 2nd class letter per week anyway (paper and envelop provided free).

      Washing power: not a chance. You can buy some on the canteen for £1.

      Painkillers. Some nicks make you buy paracetamol/aspirin from the canteen, but most healthcare will give them too you free and you should be allowed to keep them in your pad. I doubt you'll get your own through Reception as any medication goes via healthcare anyway.

      Make sure you raise all health issues during your initial healthcare interview. This should form part of the induction process.

      Try and find a few decent mates and don't sweat it. Prison isn't a holiday camp, but it isn't hell either!

  12. Hi Alex, thanks for the super fast response.

    I hope you don't mind , but I will probably be inundating your blog posts with questions over the coming days / weeks.

    I'm going to trial in December on money laundering charges. My solicitor is saying I am looking at approximately 5 years although I might be eligible for approximately 1/3 discount if I plead guilty before trial. As I think it is likely that my co-defendants are all considering doing that, I might not be left with any choice but to do it myself.

    Thanks for all the great advice, your blog has been an eye-opener

    1. Hi Tommy, no problem at all, mate. Ask away, it's why I started this blog in the first place!

      Hope things work out the best they can for you with the case. Remember, if you get the 1/3 discount, then you'll only serve half inside of whatever the final sentence is. You should also be eligible for Home Detention Curfew (HDC or 'tag') so that should be another few months off at home under curfew.

      A key issue will be whether you end up with a POCA - Proceeds of Crime - confiscation order. If so, that would need to be settled or you could face more time inside on top for default. Also, it can cause problems for Cat-D status and temporary licence etc, so you really need a good brief who knows the law inside out to cut you the best deal possible! Anyway, that's not legal advice, just a pointer of what to check with your brief.

      If you have any other questions about life in the nick, just ask!

  13. Thanks for the replies. Yes you are right, the POCA is a horrendous legislation which causes all sorts of problems and is one of the reasons my co-d's might plead guilty, as it's one of the few charges which is always "consecutive" to other charges rather than "concurrent". In my case however, POCA doesn't apply as I was an employee in the money-exchange where I worked, whereas the other 2 defendants were the Director and Company Secretary respectively. My assets have already been assessed so I am in no danger for this.

    But thanks for the warnings to get better legal advice. It's a very sad situation where just because I have the funds available, I am at least in the position where I can prepare a case. My solicitor has told me that most people please guilty at the earliest opportunity as they are often punished just by being on remand and no financial means of fighting (I doubt Rebekah Brooks would have been free if she had relied only on Legal Aid solicitors)

    Regarding the categorization process etc, I will have further questions on this which might inspire your next blog post so please look out for this as a question in your most comments section.

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Tommy,

      You're welcome. Glad to be able to help. Good news you're not facing a POCA hearing. Several of my mates from the nick had them and they are horrendously stressful.

      You are also right about Legal Aid. This situation is getting so bad that innocent people are being forced to plead guilty as damage limitation.

      Anyway, feel free to ask any other questions as they arise.

  14. My son is wondering if he can take a rash alarm click with him when he's sentenced and will he be allowed to to keep it in a cat b. Can I send stamps with letters I pist to him and what type if things can I postif I'm unable to visit him

  15. Also I've just read on your blog no paperback... Why? He's just bought a couple to take with him

    1. The reason why some prisons will stop you taking in books is because the paper can be impregnated with drugs.
      Best contact the prison directly and ask - normally you will be taken to a local prison for holding or assessment.

    2. Can I take a flexible covered bible into prison with me?

    3. Thanks for your question and apologies for the delay in responding. I think that sort of Bible shouldn't present any problems at all. Some chaplaincies inside prison can also supply free copies, but you might prefer to have your own.

  16. Been away before. Tough on my girlfriend. She thinks I'm will be phoning other women which I won't be. She asked if prison would alow me to send my phone sheet out to her.

    1. You can put an application in for a list of approved phone numbers and there is no reason why you cannot send that out.

  17. I used your packing list (thank you for that) just in case things went wrong and when I came to the security on the court door they removed all my razors - so please be aware of this.
    After being dragged from abroad on a European arrest warrant, spending six months in prison and a further six months on bail, I was finally found not guilty last week - I get no compensation for my losses and stress caused to my wife and daughter and I feel damn well angry with the whole mess, but at least I have my freedom.

    1. Thanks for your comments and for sharing your own experiences with readers. Prisons are odd places and each establishment seems to have its own interpretation of the rules. I'd never had any problems with either razors or blades, but some others have. It does appear to be the luck of the draw!

      Although it is heartening to hear of your acquittal - the alternative doesn't really bear thinking about - I can fully emphasise with the terrible stresses and injustices of your experience. The situation over denial of compensation for what can amount to 'state terrorism' at its most extreme is truly disgraceful. Our legal system is pretty much broken across the board these days.

    2. Hi Alex, finally putting all this horrible mess behind me and the healing is starting to take affect thank god.

      Just wanted to clear up one misunderstanding from my original post from June 28, in that what I was referring to was taking razors in my packed bag when going to court. I used this packing list to take my bag with me just in case of a guilty verdict and the security on the entrance to the court building removed my razors.

      Prison is a scary place for first timers who don't know what to expect and any valuable information is priceless, so I truly respect what you are doing here.

      I spent six months in prison waiting for my court case and it resulted in a hung jury and another six months waiting for the eventual not guilty verdict.

      If I can give one piece of advice for people entering prison for the first time is that almost all of the people you meet in there are normal people with normal human interactions. So be sociable and don't shut yourself away and feel sorry for yourself and play the victim as people have heard it all before and it is tiresome and boring to them.

      I don't recommend this to anyone, but one day a guy moved into the next cell to me and being the sort of friendly guy I am, I went into his cell (of course knocking on the door first. Respect is key in prison...!!!) and introduced myself and shook his hand. Turns out Paul was an ex cell mate of Charles Bronson and even proved it by showing me a picture of him and Mr Bronson (just in case :) ) from one of the books he has published.

      We became best of friends after that as he couldn't believe that someone had the 'bulls' to come up to him and introduce themselves as everyone else was shit scared of him. Truth is I was just naive and didn't know any better and just used normal human interaction which was respected by another human.

      My point is that don't fear prison as it is the fear of the unknown that is the biggest problem. Read up and gain knowledge from people like Alex and don't fear the unknown.

      Paul if you ever read this, thank you for being a 'brother from another mother' as he used to put it.

    3. Thanks very much for sharing your own experiences with us. I think that one of the strengths of this kind of blog is the possibility to share information and inside knowledge with a much wider audience. This website has had well over 3 million hits since it was launched in July 2014, so there is a great deal of interest in prison issues.

      I think your advice above is excellent, especially for anyone who is facing the prospect of prison for the first time. I do get quiet a lot of e-mails and comments from people in that position who are keen to prepare for being banged up and your observations above will be very helpful.

      It is also great news that your were acquitted. You are in the position to be able to share your prison experiences from the perspective of an innocent man who walked free after quite a lengthy stretch inside. The plight of unconnected remand prisoners is something I'm very much concerned about, as I often think they receive worse treatment in prison than they are entitled to expect under the law. Because most are first timers, they really don't know what privileges and rights the unconvicted have and all too often they are simply treated exactly like convicts - which they legally aren't. Best of luck for the future!

  18. I suffer from Sleep apnea cant breathe properly in my sleep,jump awake all the time and need water on awakening..
    How will I get along?

    1. Thanks for your question. I have met people in prison who have similar conditions, including two who relied on breathing apparatus at night while they slept. In these cases they were given single cells on medical grounds - the equipment takes up scare space in a shared cell. However, that was before the latest overcrowding really reached epidemic proportions, so I'm not sure what the situation will be at the moment.

      My advice would be to ensure that you have copies of any medical reports on your condition and your needs with you if you are in the dock to be sentenced. Make sure these get handed to the medical staff during your initial health screening during the reception process. It may not improve your situation, but it's unlikely to make it any more difficult and you could get single cell status from the start. Best of luck. Alex

  19. My son is due in court on 20th July for Malicious Messaging! He's suddenly realised he could get a prison sentence which is not helping his delicate mental state. I want to make sure he takes a bag of items with him if he is sent down. What would you suggest I pack?
    Thanks for your help - we are feeling very lost!

    1. Thanks for your question. My advice would be to put together a soft holdall with as many items from the packing list in my above post as possible, especially essential items such as shower flip-flops, foam ear-plugs for sleeping (prisons are very noisy) and a good pair of comfortable trainers.

      Other items of clothing can be prepared so they can be handed or posted in once he has gained Standard level status (usually after two weeks or so) and can wear his own clothing again. Some Cat-B prisons restrict this to prisoners on Enhanced level, so do check with the prison he is sent to (if he does get a custodial sentence) before bringing or sending a reception parcel in. Don't hesitate to ask any further questions. Regards, Alex

  20. Hi, I was wondering if you have any advice for a gay bloke going into prison. I am not obviously gay so no one would really know unless I told them. but do you think its best to keep this to myself?

    1. Thanks for your question. This is a complex area of prison life and my initial thoughts are about how long a sentence you are expecting to get. If it is going to be a short sentence - weeks or a few months - then my advice is to keep your private life private, along with details such as your home address and information about your family etc. Some prisoners make acquaintances inside that they late deeply regret sharing too much with.

      On the other hand, I've known a fair few gay and bisexual men who were quite open about their sexuality and generally didn't get any negative reactions from either fellow cons or staff members. These days most men's prisons seem to run support groups for gay, bi or trans inmates (no idea about women's nicks) and in general there is a greater awareness about equality and diversity issues.

      Another issue you might consider when deciding whether to be out inside is that some straight prisoners do have a very warped conception that all out gay men in prison have an insatiable desire to have sex with anyone and everyone. This can lead to some unwanted attention, particularly in prisons where cons are serving lengthy sentences. It's certain nothing like as bad as it is in US prisons, but as an Insider I did provide support to a few gay prisoners who found themselves either being pressured to provide sexual acts or - in more extreme cases - who were the victims of sexual assaults by prisoners (many of them 'heterosexual' and with their own families) who nevertheless felt entitled to demand sex from weaker inmates or cons who they knew/suspected might be gay.

      The other issue to consider is whether you'd feel the need to construct a false family background - i.e. heterosexual relationship etc in order to fit in. If you are facing the prospect of a longer sentence then friends are likely to share their information with you and might expect you to do the same. It is complicated, but hopefully the above information might help you reach a decision you can live with inside. Alex

    2. Thanks Alex. Its been really helpful to get a str8 guys opinion. Great blog btw.

  21. This is a really good post and I could have done with it when I was nearing sentencing myself. I searched for information at the time (nearly three years ago) but couldn't find much then - I hope plenty of people find this site as it is full of useful information.
    I did get some things wrong - like the two plain white t-shirts I packed - but it's amazing how helpful other prisoners can be with advice once you get settled.
    Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks for your kind comments. It's actually amazing how little reliable information is out there when it comes to everyday prison issues such as property that can be held 'in possession'. One of the main reasons I launched this blog a year ago was to try to provide some advice.

      I agree with your comment about finding other prisoners helpful. I had a very similar experience myself when I first went inside and later aimed to provide support to others via mentoring as an Insider. It was genuinely rewarding (most of the time, at least!). Alex

    2. 2 questions

      The trainers I bring in should be ?? As in if I take 100 pound pair of trainers or who Eva would they be targetted can they be black or white ??

      Also music I would like to learn music chord structure is their music classes or anything

      Inmates teaching or what not

      Many thx

      Paul also

    3. Hi Paul, thanks for your questions. My advice on trainers is pack two pairs: one for the gym and one for the wing. Go for good quality (as they will last longer - hopefully throughout whatever sentence you're expected to get), but avoid high value 'fashion' trainers as these are much more likely to get nicked. I would avoid black, but other colours are fine.

      There is a fair amount of pad thieving around, so better to choose lower key brands. Write your name on them inside (maybe under the area where the laces cross - then if a toe rag does try to nick them you can identify them as yours!

      The main issue is comfort. Get trainers that you'll be happy to wear whoever you are out of your cell.

      Music is a bit of pot luck. Some nicks do have music groups (i.e. guitar clubs or classes), a few - mainly Cat-Ds - actually have bands. Because most prison populations tend to chance as people are transferred out to other jails or released it can be tricky to keep a music group going. Everything like this is much easier in open nicks.

      Feel free to ask any other questions and best of luck with it all. Alex

  22. I am facing between 12-18 month, before my early guilty plea. I am ashamed to say mine is a sex offence, for which i am deeply ashamed and looking to accept any fitting punishment. Can you give me some details of what is likely to happen with regard to my housing in prison and what will the first few weeks in cat b belike for me?
    I appreciate this is not a situation you have found yourself in but any insight would be helpful.

    1. Thanks for your questions. As an Insider I've worked with and supported people who have been convicted for the whole range of offences... from multiple murders to shoplifting, so I don't judge or discriminate.

      Assuming that you do get a custodial sentence along the lines you suggest above, then I suspect you will serve it all in closed conditions (so start out in a Cat-B local, then maybe get transferred to a Cat-C). On that sort of shortish sentence, I very much doubt you'll get to an open prison, although I may be wrong.

      With this sort of conviction you probably won't have time to do any offending behaviour courses inside (i.e. SOTP), so you may have to complete these during your time on licence back in the community as part of your conditions for release at the halfway point. This in turn means that it is unlikely you will get sent to one of the specialist prisons that only accommodate people convicted of sexual offences.

      Due to the type of offence, my best guess is that you will automatically be housed on what is called a 'Vulnerable Prisoner' unit (VPU) - commonly described as 'being on the numbers' (from the Prison Rules concerning segregation).

      Most VPUs also house prisoners convicted of non-sexual offences who are either personally vulnerable (with mental health problems, debtors, suspected informers - 'grasses' - etc), so not all of them can be assumed to be sympathetic! The best course of action is to be very low key and not discuss your case in too much detail.

      I've covered the usual routine of a Cat-B jail in a previous blog post, but typically the first week or so will be spent on Induction during which you'll learn about the rules, regime timetable and daily procedures. Sometimes these Induction weeks are run by staff, sometimes by cons (like me!).

      You'll start, like all new receptions, on the new Entry level of the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) system which means having to wear prison-issue clothing etc for the first two weeks or so. Some Cat-Bs only allow cons to have their own clothes once they reach Enhanced level and this can take a minimum of another three months, so you might get there after about 14-15 weeks in the worst case scenario.

      One of the key issues will be finding something to do - an education course, a vocational qualification or prison work. The alternative is to be banged up in your 'pad' (cell) for put to 23 hours each day.

      I'm pretty certain that like most new receptions these days you'll end up sharing a cell with at least one other bloke. They shouldn't put smokers and non-smokers in together, although it can happen due to current overcrowding. If you have problems with your pad-mate try to get wing staff to move you in with someone you feel you can get on with.

      You'll also have to be prepared to discuss your offending behaviour with your offender manager (outside probation officer) and your offender supervisor (inside probation). These people should prepare your sentence plan (what they think you'll need to do to reduce risk of reoffending once released) and plan for your release back into the community on licence after you've served the custodial part of the sentence.

      I hope that this advice is helpful. The main thing is not to panic. Prison isn't nice, but doesn't have to be a traumatic experience as long as you are mentally prepared for it. You might find the Little Book of Prison by Frankie Owens worth reading. A few bits are out of date now, but overall it is a good read and very informative. Alex

  23. Very useful blog!
    I will shortly be doing a sentence which I anticipate will be between 2 and 6 years, I intend to plead guilty (which I am) but as it is my third offence, I am not expecting too much leniency! Admittadly when I have done time before it was 20+ years ago! In those days we were still on 'slopping out' and showers once a week!
    How often are you allowed to shower these days? Most people on the outside shower daily and I hated the lack of proper hygene back then!
    One other question, 20 years ago we were not allowed 'alkaline' batteries, is this still the case? The standard blue 'ever-ready's where rubbish!

    1. Hi Tony, thanks for your questions. I reckon a lot has changed over the last 20 years - not all for the better! However, in almost all prisons in England and Wales 'slopping out' has now ended and most cells do have sinks and WCs (other than Cat-Ds which tend to have landing washrooms). A few nicks have 'night-san' arrangements which mean you have to hit the call bell to get the door opened so you can access the communal facilities.

      In theory, prisoners are only 'entitled' to one shower or bath a week, but that is an absolute minimum. Every nick I was held in allowed daily showers, but with association being cut back to a bare minimum across much of the prison estate (staff shortages etc) you may find that there are long queues for showers, especially in older jails where some showers might be out of action due to slow maintenance work.

      On the subject of batteries the DHL canteen sheet usually offers Duracells in a couple of sizes (AAA and AAs), but they do cost a packet. Try to take some in with you in sealed packets and make sure any appliances that need batteries have new ones before you go down. Also - no rechargeable devices (they reckon the chargers can be used to power up mobile phones!)

      Best of luck with it all! Alex

  24. Hi Tony, I am about to visit someone in prison for the first time .. they were sentenced on Thursday this week - 2 years. Am I allowed to take anything for him on this first visit? If so, what would you recommend? He had a smallish rucksack with a few basics in.

    Thanks in advance,

    1. Thanks for your question - and sorry for the delay in replying. He'll have to wear prison clothing for at least the first two weeks while he is on Entry Level. Once he gets to Standard Level he might be permitted to use his own clothes again, although some prisons (mainly Cat-B locals) don't allow inmates their own clothing until they get up to Enhanced Level. This now takes at least a further three months, so he could end up in prison kit for 14 weeks.

      Most prisons do permit what is called a 'reception parcel' - usually only one per sentence, but this varies from establishment to establishment. My advice is to ask your friend to check the local rules or even call the prison helpline yourself to ask for specifics. It's difficult to recommend what to send, but most people will need a couple of pairs of trainers, shower flip-flops, underwear, t-shirts, socks etc. Best to confirm what he'll feels he'll need. Remember, no toiletries, liquids or foodstuffs can be accepted.

      Some prisons allow the parcel to be handed in before a social visit, others require it to come via the post with an approved reception application ('app'). Again, the specific details will depend on the individual prison, so definitely check first. Hope that helps.

  25. I've been 4 times in 8 year's and know what to take now , 3 pair of joggers 3trainer's tshirts vests gym bag 3 decent towels shorts slippers plenty of underwear and socks a pair of jeans and a jacket for winter no hood. Don't bother taking a quilt or cover cos if they don't have the correct fire resistant label they won't let you have them, so best to buy from the catalogue or canteen. Jewellery, anything round your wrist, a chain with according religious symbol (cross etc) 1ring say its wedding, . Toiletries, nailclippers, hair brush, toothbrush, mirror plastic, hair clippers, scouring pad,small bag, razor and blades. Ps2 with pads and plenty of games, cds,films, for when you become enhanced, different jails allow different amounts in your cell but what you can't have is kept safe in your stored prop, if its only a short stay take a small cd player radio. Photos of family and friends even a couple of small posters roll inside an empty kitchen foil roll to keep safe. Generally take asmuch as you can and if it's not allowed in the first jail you go to the next one might let you have it, if not its kept safe in your prop. Don't forget to take a diary with everyone s phone number you need and take as much money as you can as it saves havin to ask people to send it in. Don't take any liquids with you, shower gel etc or baccy tablets, any meds you are on or need you will be given

    1. Hi Scott, thanks for your very helpful comments. It's always useful to have other ex-prisoners' views on what to take in with you.

      Your point about prop being stored at one nick and then issued when you have transferred is very true... I've had that experience myself when moving between two Cat-Bs. Each prison seems to have slightly different rules. Also the facilities list in PSI 30/2013 has recently been updated so now digital alarm clocks are permitted!

  26. Hiya mate really useful blog! Just a question regarding clothes do they have to be new?


    1. Hi Chris, thanks for your question. If you are taking clothing in with you from the dock or receiving what is called a 'reception parcel' (one during the first month or so of your sentence) then clothing doesn't need to be new. However, any clothing purchased while you are inside (from the approved catalogues - usually Very or M&M - then obviously these would be new. Hope that answer helps.

    2. Yea thanks for the reply Alex.

  27. Hello.I am currently on bail. New offence s33 disclose sexual images without consent. No prior convictions pleaded guilty early. Looking at possible 6 months with 1/3 off makes 4month sentence possible. 2months actual inside time. Do you think a custodial sentence likely given overcrowding? My lawyer says its possible.

    1. Thanks for your questions. Obviously I'm not a lawyer, so this is just a guess really. As you know, this is a very new offence under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act (2015) so sentencing is in its early days. My guess is that a custodial term will almost certainly depend on the impact that the offence has had (maybe continues to have) on the victim, minus your previous good character and the early plea 'discount'. The maximum sentence is two years.

      The problem is that when new offences are brought in judges don't have much to go on beyond the official sentencing guidelines. There have so far been a few prosecutions this month. One (a male) received a six-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, as well as 100 hours unpaid work. In contrast, the first female convicted received a six-week prison sentence suspended for 18-months (also there was a common assault involved which got a separate suspended sentence), plus costs.

      Although much will depend on the specific circumstances, as far as I can tell no-one has yet been given an immediate custodial term so far. If you're interested, there is a very good legal analysis of the sentencing for this offence on this blog:

      Best of luck and I hope these comment are of some use. Alex

  28. Hi
    Thanks for this, finding it very useful as i am about to go back to jail next week.. first time i got remanded so no time to get ready.. Now i breached a restrain by texting and calling, which activates my suspended sentence.
    Going to start getting my bag ready, i was wondering about a few things:
    Last time i went pentonville and i did hear alot of music.. so am i right to assume people brought in cd players? or can they get sent in at a later date once i am of basic?
    Would it be best to bring a un-open pack of ciggs or a bag of tobacco for trading once i get in? so basically have it in my bag or suit when i am in court
    how many t-shirts would you say is best to bring alongside jumpers? as its starting to get cold
    what are the rules on books, should i just try and bring 1 or 2 paperbacks? as in pentonville it was either have a shower or grab a book..
    and lastly any tips on food and cooking in the cell? as i have heard stories of people making meals etc in the cell... i really dont know what i am looking as my solicitor went from 3months to a year now down to weeks.. so i just want to be ready.

    1. Thanks for your questions. It's always a good idea to get a 'bang-up' bag ready. Just make sure you have it with you in the dock at all times as nothing can be handed in at court after sentencing!

      You can take in a radio/CD player with you as long as it doesn't have an active USB port or is rechargeable. Once you are inside, the only option will be to buy a new one from the Argos catalogue, so if you have one I suggest you take it in with you from day one. It might take a while to get cleared by security and PAT tested, but better than waiting weeks (or months) for the next batch of Argos orders.

      People give various advice about cigars and tobacco ('burn'). Some people have commented that they are allowed to have a pouch or a packet with them, although others have said that all outside burn gets confiscated at Reception. If you are willing to take a punt on it, then you might try to get it in with you, but I can't predict the outcome.

      Obviously while you are on Entry level you'll have to wear prison gear for at least the first two weeks. However, some nicks don't even allow lads on Standard to have their own clothing, so it depends where you are likely to be headed from court and how long you're expecting to be inside. I would still take in, say, four or five t-shirts with you. These should be put on your prop card and then issued as soon as you reach the IEP level. A couple of jumpers will also be a must (no black gear, remember!) I always advise everyone to take a decent pair of shower flip-flops with them - unless they fancy wading through some pretty nasty stuff in the average prison shower!

      Definitely take a few paperbacks with you in your holdall. You should be allowed to have them immediately (I was when I was sent down). Also since 1 September family and friends can send books in direct, rather than ordering them from official suppliers like WH Smiths.

      Most Cat-B nicks don't allow you to cook in your pad and you'll probably have a travel kettle. This is OK for hot drinks, porridge, packet soups etc, but some lads do cook up quite elaborate meals. Make sure you take some cash with you in your wallet when you're in court. That will go onto your prison account and you'll get a receipt when you hand it over.

      Hope that advice helps. Every nick seems to be a bit different and sometimes it just depends on your luck with the Reception screws on duty. I've met some real diamonds who helped a lot (and a few real bastards who treated new cons like dirt). Luck of the draw, really. Cheers, Alex

  29. Hi great blog,

    I'm currently on bail for downloading indecent images and looking at possible jail time.

    My question is when I arrive at prison will I go straight to the VPU wing or will I need to request this? Also will I do my induction with the other prisoners and will the know what I'm in for?


    1. Thanks - and thanks for your questions. When you arrive from court at your first local prison, it will be a Cat-B. This is where you'll be assessed and categorised. Obviously I don't know what sort of time you might be looking at, but no doubt your solicitor has advised you.

      To be honest it very much depends on the facilities at each prison. Some nicks have separate VPU wings, others have a designated corridor. My best guess is that you'd be placed on VP status immediately on arrival. HMPS is reluctant to take any risks with people convicted of SOs. It can't hurt to confirm this with the Reception officer during your initial 1-2-1 interview (which should be conducted in private).

      Induction also varies from prison to prison, but in most Cat-Bs VPs are kept totally segregated from 'mains' prisoners just in case something kicks off. My view is that you'll almost certainly do your induction with other VPs.

      In theory, no other prisoner should know what you're in for unless you choose to tell them. If you are on a VPU, I reckon that there will be plenty of others in for much more serious contact offences and serving long stretches, so it's all relative! If you do eventually get to an open prison (Cat-D) then there are no VPUs. Everyone is in the same boat, so again, best to be cautious.

      It is worth remembering that most VPUs also house a range of prisoners who aren't in for sexual offences, including some who have been bullied, debtors and other people who have struggled on mains locations. Some of these lads can view themselves as being a 'superior' type of con and there can be some tensions with the SOs, so being a bit discreet about your own situation might be wise, at least until you find your feet and make a few friends. Inevitably the subject of convictions will come up, as it does on all wings, but best not to go into too much detail or give away any personal information.

      Hope that information helps.

  30. Hello, thanks for sharing your experiences. I have a very strange question if you don't mind? My brother has recently written to me asking if I could send a one off giro for some new shoes. He was living off the streets and we have not had contact for some years. WHat I need to know is what happens if they have no footware due to it being sent off for forensics? Do the prison provide shoes? He says he needs some trainers so that he can work, is this the case? Any advice would be gratefully appreciated. I do not want to send money for "treats", but if it is true and it helps him work for his own money, as I one off I will help. I did ring the prison to ask, but got no response or joy from them so anything you could help with is a bonus. Thank you for your time!

    1. Thanks for your question. Apologies for the delay in responding. The short answer is that, in theory, prisoners are supposed to provide regulation trainers (and safety work boots for certain jobs). However, in practice, some establishments simply don't have items in the stores, so either prisoners wear what they came in with or end up in socks (rare, but I have seen it on the wings).

      I always advise anyone preparing for prison to ensure that they have at least one pair of comfortable trainers for everyday wear. Obviously I don't know your brother's situation, so can't really be more specific. I hope that helps!

  31. Hi, going to jail in a month ! Great web site ! Well done mate !!!

    1. Thanks for your kind comment. Best of luck with your stay as a guest of her majesty.

  32. Hi ya my boyfriend is on remand he has been there since the 19th arp and is pleading guilty to theft and fraud he is looking at 1-5 years will he get a 1/3 of and time taken of that he is on remand it's only a pre-sentance hearing thanks

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, if he pleads guilty at the first opportunity he should get full credit (the discount), plus the judge can - and usually will - order that time served on remand count towards the actual sentence. Then he should get released at the halfway point and serve the remainder of his sentence on licence in the community (but subject to recall if he breaches his licence conditions or commits another offence).

  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. Hi great blog for people who don't know. My wife and I are due in court tomorrow for theft from an old person we cared for we had POA but was not registered as we did not know it had to be, the prosecution have said we have stolen everything from this man he has earned in the last 6 years we have cared for him for 9 years and he has now lost most of his memory at 97 we have not stolen so have pleaded not guilty.
    My question is does it not look guilty if you walk into court with a bag?
    Also my wife is chronically ill and needs another operation for an infection, she has had 70 + operations so far and needs morphine and lots of other drugs to live, our solicitor has said she won't get drugs in prison or the care she needs to threaten us to plead guilty, her condition is chronic. Are there prison hospitals? Will she go to normal prison with a raging infectio? Her immune system is low and is very susceptible to infection. We do not want to plead guilty to a crime we did not commit but might have to for her health. We are both in our 50's and have never been in trouble and are financially secure so don't need to steal and don't want a criminal record to save her life
    Thanks for the blog I have read every word

    1. Thanks for your questions. I'm sorry to hear about your situation.

      Most docks have an area at the front under the window that the jury cannot see, so that is the best place to leave your bags in a way that won't reflect on their opinion of your case.

      On the medical questions. Prisons have a duty of care to those in custody and every prison has a healthcare department. To be honest, the quality of care does vary, but even on the outside the NHS can be under pressure and standards do sometimes fall below what is expected. I'm not a solicitor, but I really wouldn't allow such threats to persuade you or your wife to enter a guilty plea if you are genuinely innocent of what you're both been charged with.

      It might be wise to have an up to date medical report on your wife's condition prepared before the trial. This should include a detailed description of her medical conditions, what treatment she has already had and her continuing health needs, including medication and other treatment. Even if the worst does happen at a contested trial, a detailed medical report can make a substantial difference at sentencing, so my advice is not to neglect this important issue. Also, try to get as many testimonials from others as to your good character and confirmation of any achievements or service on behalf of others in the past. These can also help the judge form a view.

      I hope that these suggestions will be helpful.

  35. Hi I was just wondering if I'm allowed to take my partner in some hair clippers and what size belt buckle do they allow? As he went in with a belt but they've told him it was too big but didn't specify the size the buckle needs to be :/

    1. Hi MaryAnne. Apologies for the delay in responding to your comment. I don't always check these older blog posts as regularly as I should!

      Handing in any property to any prison is now subject to the new rules (PSI 30/2013). In general, prisoners are only permitted a 'reception' parcel of clothing during the first month or so of their sentence. Each prison seems to interpret the rules differently.

      Belt buckles mustn't be large enough to be used as a weapon, so a standard one should be OK. Large, heavy metal ones won't be acceptable.

      With regard to the hair clippers, the best bet would be for him to buy a cheap set from Argos via the internal prison ordering system. It might take a few weeks or more, but then he will get them! As long as he has sufficient funds in his spend account he should be allowed to order some. My advice is also call the prison's switchboard first. Hope that helps.

  36. Hi, quick question please I know you've said what to put in a prison bag but my boyfriend is going prison in January he couldn't care less about it so I need to know literally everything he will need in there as it looks like its going to be me packing his bag.
    Is he allowed to wear named clothes such as adidas and Nike?
    And if I get him a promise ring will he be allowed to keep that on? Xx

    1. Thanks for your question. Sorry it's taken me a while to check this post.

      Ideally he should have a bag with him in the dock before sentencing. Once sentenced nothing outside the dock can go with him to the cells and then to prison. The blog post above does contain a recommended list including clothing (although this could also be handed in at the prison as a single 'reception parcel' once he gets to the prison.

      There is usually no problem with sports labels, but definitely nothing black or with sports teams/national logos. Adidas and Nike are fine. Shower flip-flops are a must (scuzzy showers) as are comfortable trainers (two pairs - one for the gym, one for everyday wear). He can have a watch (best not digital) and wear a ring, a neck chain of normal weight/length).

      If you get him a washbag then try to find him a see-through transparent one. Foam (not wax) earplugs are always a great idea as he'll almost definitely be sharing a cell. If he plans to cut his own hair or get a mate to do it, then a set of hair clippers (mains, not rechargeable) would be a good idea, also an alarm clock. I would include a decent sized towel too. Hope that helps.

  37. Hey my bf is in the nick and I want to send him some pics lol u seem to know everything so what kinda pics are accepted and do u guys all pass them round??

    1. Thanks for your question. Sorry it's taken me a while to reply.

      Prisoners can receive photos from family in the post and the censors are usually pretty relaxed about the 'adult content' although no doubt they'll have a good look! I've certainly seen some pretty explicit photos inside. However, they can't be displayed on cell noticeboards and need to be kept in lockers.

      Whether photos get passed round very much depend on the individual prisoner. Some definitely wouldn't want others to see explicit photos of their wife or girlfriend, others do pass them round to their mates. I'd suggest a mixture of ordinary photos that he can display and show other blokes without any embarrassment and a few more 'personal' shots just for him. Hope that helps.

  38. Thank you for all the information, great help to me as my son is going to jail for a few years, he doesn't want to take his ps2 in his bag as I have suggested, can I take it in on a visit or send it to him later

    1. Thanks for your comment and question. I'm glad that you found the blog useful. Sorry it's taken me a while to respond.

      Sadly, prison rules (PSI 30/2013) don't allow family or friends to send in anything other than an initial 'reception parcel' of clothes at the start of a sentence and books. Anything else will need to be purchased while he is in prison using money from his 'spends' account. Even if he does take a PS2 in his bag with him from the dock, he won't be allowed to have it for at least six weeks until he progresses through Entry Level to Standard Level and then Enhanced. Only Enhanced prisoners are permitted to have PS2 or DVD players in their possession. Most prisons allow Enhanced prisoners to purchase PS2s via a firm called Gema Records in Reading (, but they have to fund their purchases via their spending money in the prison account.

      Other electrical items (no rechargeables) such as radios, CD/players, alarm clocks, hair clippers etc can be taken in with him in his bag from court in order to prevent wasting money on buying new items while he is inside. I hope that helps.

  39. Hi, im a woman but im assuming the rules r similar for both. Looking at four years and up for sentencing in a week. Really concerned as I smoke heavily and u say only £10.50 a week at first. Also I have really sensitive skin, can I bring in moisturisers as this will leave less money to smoke if I have to buy from a catalogue inside. Final question and you probably dont know being a guy but can I take basic make up with me, dont want to look a dog when my visitors come. Thanks, didnt know where else to go as this is the most comprehensive website, none that are worthwhile are for women.

  40. Hi, im a woman but im assuming the rules r similar for both. Looking at four years and up for sentencing in a week. Really concerned as I smoke heavily and u say only £10.50 a week at first. Also I have really sensitive skin, can I bring in moisturisers as this will leave less money to smoke if I have to buy from a catalogue inside. Final question and you probably dont know being a guy but can I take basic make up with me, dont want to look a dog when my visitors come. Thanks, didnt know where else to go as this is the most comprehensive website, none that are worthwhile are for women.

  41. Thanks for all the advice. Forewarned is forearmed.
    One question, why not black clothing? (It's all I usually wear!)

  42. hi Alex,
    many thanks for this amazing source of information, very useful and it has helped put a human face to the UK prison system and broaden my understanding.

    I'm probably looking at some sort of sentence (for downloading/sharing illegal images online unfortunately), you say in earlier posts that it's probably wise not to go into details too much in regards to the offences committed etc, and that there is a special wing or similar for 'vulnerable prisoners'.
    But what if it's overcrowded and I will end up in 'normal' section of the prison, could I just not make up another crime background kind of thing, like why i'm serving time for etc? Or will that be found out etc, and get me into troubles after.

    I'm a gay man, and by the sounds of it the 'vulnerable section' seems a bit weird and lonely, I mean I don't want to stand out, I'm a pretty normal kind of guy in every other aspects (and obviously regret what I've done so thoroughly and deeply) and would feel very isolated I think (I guess that's the point maybe). Also being a gay guy (liking sex with men 18 and upwards), is there a lot of 'gay'-sex going on etc? You touched on it briefly in a previous response, but would be interesting to hear a bit more about it. As i'm not really sure what to expect etc.

    On another question, you said that it's important to find something to do while in prison, study or work etc. Would you be able to list the type of prison 'jobs' / tasks available in general throughout the prisons, or duties that they get the inmates to carry out etc. I learn new things very quickly and would be interested in training programms too if available etc.

    ones again thank you soo much,

    kind regards

    1. Hi Stephan, apologies for my delay in responding. I must have missed your questions earlier and now I'm trying to catch up. Hopefully you will read this before sentencing.

      Generally speaking anyone convicted of a sexual offence (including non-contact) will automatically be placed on a VPU for their own protection. When VPUs are overcrowded, prisoners might be kept in the Induction wing until a vacancy on a VPU becomes available. This means being locked up for 23 hours a day, but they should ensure that no VP has contact with a 'mains' prisoner.

      VPUs are pretty much a reflection of society. You may find that there are more 'professionals' (teachers, doctors etc) on these units due to the type of offences committed. Also the average age is likely to be higher, so these VPUs can be quite (less fights, violence etc). If offered the choice, many prisoners - even those in for non-sexual offences - would probably opt for a VPU. There can also be prisoners there who have been bullied on the mains wings, or who are in debt or suspected informers ('grasses').

      It's difficult to say whether there is more of a 'gay scene' on a VPU. I think it will depend on the individual prison. There is probably more gay or bisexual activity going on in prisons than is generally realised! Unfortunately some of it will be exploitative or in return for canteen goods (esp tobacco). I have asked a gay friend of mine who has been inside to write a specific blog post on this subject, so if you are still on bail, you might be able to read it soon.

      It is essential to get work or to do education. Not only for the extra cash (£8-12 per week) but because without doing something you will find it hard to get a higher status in the Incentives & Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme. You can also volunteer for other roles (peer mentor/Insider, Listener (Samaritan-trained), wing reps, diversity reps, equality reps etc.)

      Typical prison jobs include orderlies: gym, kitchen, laundry, stores, library, education department, Reception, cleaners, gardeners, wing painters, care assistants (for elderly, disabled inmates) etc. Unfortunately, in many prisons those resident on VPU wings are limited in the range of jobs that are available. Some prisons have different opportunities. During the Induction process (usually a week) you will have assessments and a chance to discuss what's available.

      Some prisons do offer vocational training (catering, painting/decorating, building etc), but that is normally only in the training prisons, rather than Cat-B locals. Also, it will depend on length of sentence, since these take months and there is always a long waiting list. I hope this information is helpful. Alex

  43. Alex - thanks for the time and effort you put into this site and the help you have offered to so many people.

    I expect a short sentence for my second drink drive offence within 7 years - no other convictions but very high readings.

    I had a lengthy career as a police officer prior to my first conviction.

    Any advice of how likely this is to be revealed to HMP staff and other inmates?

    Should I ask to be treated as 'vulnerable' or see how it goes in the main population?

    Thanks again


    1. Hi J, apologies for the delay in responding, but sometimes I do miss questions on the older posts. I hope this will still be relevant advice.

      There are always potential issues in prison with having been a police or prison officer. The main problems are in closed prisons (Cat-B or Cat-C). I expect that it will be assumed you will be classed as a vulnerable prisoner and placed on a Vulnerable Prisoner Unit (VPU) or 'on the numbers'. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this. VPUs are generally much less 'lively' than main wings, but there is a stigma to having been on the 'nonce' wing. For a short sentence, however, my advice is to take whatever protection is offered. Better safe than sorry.

      I did know a younger lad when I was in Cat-D who had been a police officer and who managed to hide his previous employment while he was in a close prison for a fraud offence. He didn't have any problems, but he hadn't been on the job that long and was held in prisons well away from London. It would have been immense back luck had he been recognised by a fellow con who knew him from his days in uniform. If you are being tried at a court close to your home area then the risk of exposure as an ex-copper will be much greater when you go to the local Cat-B.

      If your sentence is long enough to get reclassified as a Cat-D, then open prisons are much less dangerous for ex-police and prison officers. I knew four during my own time in an open prison and they didn't have any significant problems beyond the odd snarky comment from 'career' criminals! I hope that helps. Alex

  44. My father was released on bail pending appeal after serving 9 months of a 5 year sentence and he was wondering if it is allowed for him to write a letter to another prisoner(who is still in prison)or would this be against his bail conditions. He has an offender management officer who does nothing but continuously asking him if he understands his convictions and although my dad has vascular dementia and Alzheimer's she keeps on telling him he's convicted and a prisoner and she has argued with me that he is compus mentis and NOT vulnerable in law.I have had to get his lawyer to write to her after she brought a social worker who has absolutely nothing to do with the case or my father because the social worker wanted to see him.So understandably he wants to make sure that he's not doing anything wrong so is he permitted to send letters to his friend in prison. Thank you

    1. Sorry about the delay in responding. It very much depends on your father's bail conditions. You need to read these very carefully. If the person he wishes to write to has any involvement in his own case (i.e. a codefendant) then I would advise strongly against doing anything that might prejudice his appeal.

      However, if there are no specific bail conditions excluding contact with this prisoner, then I can't see it could cause your father any problems. Of course, I would also caution against him discussing any details of his case or his appeal that might be useful to the prosecution as it must be assumed that all correspondence will be read by the prison censors and copied to the CPS/police if they feel any relevant issues have been disclosed. I hope that helps.

  45. Hi what happened if you have a weak bladder and ocasionaly bed wet thanks

    1. Hi, this is a surprisingly common problem in prisons. The key issue to is ensure that the healthcare department and the prisoner's personal officer on the wing know the medical situation. Fresh sheets, other bedding and clothing should then be made available as required, rather than once a week during kit change. Most cells in closed prisons also have a WC in the room (some screened by a curtain, others not).

      The soiled sheets and bedding can usually be placed in a special trolley for 'contaminated' washing. This can be done fairly discreetly without attracting too much attention. A fair number of prisoners use this system regularly, either as a result of illness or a medical condition (or because they were stoned on drugs!) I hope that helps.

    2. Thanks for the reply Paul you blog has been very helpful just 1 more question please, if you do ocasionaly bed wet will this get you a single cell? And will I be keept confidential thanks again

  46. so much useful info. I am due for sentencing on 1st feb for fraud & money 71 yrs old and suffer from all manner of ailments mainly age related.came off my meds for depression,water retention and statins a while ago.instead I am "raging against the dying of the light" by doing 2 to 4 hours of intense workouts daily; on indoor bike and rower and weights. if I don't do at least something I will balloon in weight and degenerate really quickly. any thoughts? also I have to use lavatory regularly,every hour or so through the night. getting down/up to top bunk difficult. also got a couple of hernia problems;am in need of a dentist & optician.have to sleep with feet raised. i will get a medical report, but again,any thoughts? have had this hanging over me for 4 years and have been seriously affected by the length of time

    1. Hi, I glad to read that you are finding the blog useful. There are several issues to consider as you prepare for the sentencing.

      The first is that you will be classed as a 'retired' prisoner (over 65s), so you should enquire about special gym sessions for retired inmates. Some prisons do offer these. You might also be able to get additional gym, exercise sessions on the recommendation of Healthcare staff. Make sure your entire medical history is available to the prison Healthcare team. You can take a copy in with you and hand it over during your initial Reception screening.

      Some prisons also run special health programmes for retired or disabled prisoners. A few provide opportunities for retired inmates to do gardening or 'walking clubs' on the sports fields. What is available varies from prison to prison, so ask wing reps for information. There should be an Insider (peer mentor) who can assist you.

      It's best to explain the bunk issue to Healthcare and Reception staff. They should make an effort to accommodate these needs under the Care Act (2014). Most cells in closed prisons do have WCs in the cell. If you need specific medical equipment or additional pillows, blankets etc, then you will need a medical form from Healthcare.

      On the dentist/optician issue, I would strongly advise getting this done before you go inside. It can takes months to get a dental appointment and if you then get moved prison in the meantime, the wait will start all over again. Getting sorted before you get sent down will avoid a whole world of pain and frustration once in prison. I hope that advice will help and good luck with your hearing. Alex

  47. Hi I think I'm going to dovgate do you know anything about that nick? And any tips on how to get a single cell other than becoming high risk? Great blog btw has helped a lot

  48. Any thoughts on dovefate pr single cell? Thanks great blog Alex thanks for the help

  49. Hi Alex,
    My fiance is sentenced for 6 months recently on 20th Jan. Our barista was not expecting him to go jail as she said him that he shouldnt get sentenced but he did. I am very worried and just heard once from him as he had to beg the staff to make his first phone call after 3 days, I met him once and heard i m only allowed to visit twice a month. he asked me to send some cloths and shoes but i didnt knew about black cloths and hoodies before. can i send his cloths in his gym bag? and what else do u advice me to send him? When is he likely to come out of prison? Will I get to pick him up?he said he is not allowed to go out of his cell i think coz his paper works are not completed or some thing like that and he spends his all time inside. I dont know any thing about prison and rules and documentations, is there any thing i can do from my side. I just want him back and he is innocent :( I have no one to take advise from.

  50. Is there any organisation that helps men who are suffering from domestic violence? I seriously need help for my fiance as his ex partner send him in prison because he was quiet and tolerated all her violence for 10 years. But she accused him for strangling her, rape for 10 years and threatened to kill. But he has got all the evidence that proves that she was the one who was threat for him and she was abusing him. but still he was sentenced. is there any place where he can get justice?

  51. Excellent reading. So much info and so relevant to time inside.
    If there's anything left out, it ain't important.
    Well done Alex...this will be massively helpful to those going away for the first time.
    Keep doing what you do.

  52. Alex Congratulations on a truly excellent service you are providing. I mentioned your site to a Probation Officer at Warrington Crown Court to receive her and it appears the whole of Probation for the service you provide. I had a custodial suspended but had a bag packed on your advice. One point I could not see on your list was Mobile Phones! I understand that these ase AN ABSOLUTE NO! NO! Llawer o Ddiolch Many Thanks

  53. hi im on a suspended sentence for reckless arson .. i have biplar and jumped i front of a train .. i have a big history of attempt suicide, the question is would they activate my suspended sentence as if they did it would put my wife in big hardship ... jail is no problem for me as been there done that .. i know you are not a lawyer lol ..but thought you might have a bit of insight .. thanks bro

  54. A good helpful read. Thank you.

  55. Hi I know your not a lawyer but just want to know if you have heard of anything such as this. My brother was sentenced to 18 months in prison for money laundering. 6 months to be served in prison and the rest on tag. He then had to attened court while serving his 6 months and was told my the Judge he had to pay back some money witin 6 months or will have to serve his full sentence. After court he was returned to a different prison as it was closer to the court. Now he is due to be realised in 4 days to go in tag, but the people who review his case in the prison are saying the order they have from the court states that he has to pay the money before his released or he has to serve the full sentence in prison.

    So two questions really

    1. Do people get sent to a different prison just because it closer to the court thy have just attended

    2. Is it normal a court order would be changed without a further hearing or without notice to the person

    Thanks Karen

    1. Hi Karen, thanks for your questions.

      It is very usual for prisoners to be relocated to prisons near to court after a hearing. It happens all the time.

      On the issue of Proceeds of Crime (POCA), unfortunately if the sum hasn't been paid, then it can block early release on tag and can result in serving a much longer sentence in default. Your brother needs to have proper legal advice on his situation.

      I hope that helps. Alec

  56. Hi, could be looking at some prison time for fraud, what would you advise is a good way to get through the first couple of weeks, what to do and not to do?

    1. Hi Ian, thanks for your question. You might find my latest blog post Preparing for Prison helpful. Have a read and if you then have some specific questions about the early days in custody, feel free to ask away. Alex

  57. Hi mate, I being sentenced in three days time and looking at 18 months for first time in jail. Your blog has been a great help to me so thank you. Have you thought of starting your own charity for this?

  58. Hi bud,I'm looking at a 12 month sentence on the 22nd of April. I'm been sentenced in a Welsh court. Will me going to a Welsh prison as an English man make difference or will I be find. And can I take my own cigarettes inside with me? Thanks mate

    1. Hi Adam, the English & Welsh prison system is basically the same. People get moved around according to available space, so you could end up at a prison in England or get moved to one soon. I doubt you'll have any problems, as I've known people move from England to Wales & then back again.

      If you have an unopened pack of ciggies you might be allowed to keep them in Reception, but it depends on the prison. Each has it's own rules. If they do take them off you then you should still be offered a smoker's pack to keep you going until canteen order day. Hope that helps! Alex

  59. Fantastic Blog! Thank you so much for sharing this one really well defined all peaceful info,I Really like it,Love its
    whats on in cardiff

  60. Hi Alex,

    Excellent Website, well done. I have a few questions for a friend that may be going inside:

    1) On this blog there is various conflicting information on books, can you take books in with you or is that a no no and you must purchase from amazon?

    2) Can you bring as much money as you want to pay into your account
    but only spend a maximum of £15 a week once on enhanced? Is there anyway to increase this amount, if you don't spend the maximum one week does it roll over to the next?

    3) Can you take as many t shirts, tracksuits, jeans as you want or is their a limit? My friend does not want to waste his money buying once inside.

    4) Can you take as many dvds and cds with you as you want?

    5) If you don't play psp, is it a good idea to take one to swop?
    what time of things do people swop inside?

  61. Hi,
    I am a 33 year old female and currently 6 months pregnant and facing a prison sentence for serious injury by dangerous driving, failing to stop and drink diving. I have 3 weeks until crown court.

    Do you have any knowledge on females prisons and mother baby units so I can ask some questions?

    I have found this blog really useful

  62. Cheers for the blog mate, it is helping me and I'm sure many others prepare for life inside prison.

    Hopefully you can be of some help with a question I've got regarding request to be 'padded up' with certain people (if you don't get on with your 'pad mate' for whatever reason or you just aren't on the same 'level' as it were)..

    I know you said in a previous blog entry that it is a fairly easy process if you want to switch cells for whatever reason but would this also apply if you request to be 'padded up' with your co-defendant who in this case is also my brother? He is currently on remand in the local Cat-B jail and is expecting a pretty lengthy sentence if found guilty at the trial (it is his first time in prison). The chances are that I will be facing a custodial sentence if also found guilty and we will probably end up in the same jail before we are categorized. (I am currently on bail and if I receive a custodial sentence it will also be my first time in prison)

    Thanks for any help and all the best!

  63. the list of things you have put up is that what a family member can send in in the first 28 days or does that have to go directly with the prisoner. my partner has just been recalled and allowed clothing and things in the first 28 days but no one has told me what he can and cant have and i am finding it hard to find the right info as to what i can send in for him and need it done asap

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  65. hi sorry this may sound stupid but my partner is in prison until his licence 14th december and my ex partner has just been recaleld and they are in the same prison, he beaten me up badly and my partner is more than likely to end up fighting with him if they end up on the same wing, my partner says he shouldnt go onto his wing but if my partner has a fight with him will he get extra time

    1. Thanks for your question and apologies for the delay in responding. Hopefully, if staff are aware of this issue then precautions should be taken to keep them apart. If there is violence between them, then both could lose privileges or even face extra days in custody. If the violence is serious, then they could face prosecution on new charges. Hopefully it won't come to that.

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  67. Could anyone tell me if your Aloud A kindle?

    1. Thanks for your question. Sadly, no. No electronic devices such as Kindles or iPods are permitted in prisons.

  68. Hi Alex
    I just wanted to say how helpful I've found your blog. My husband (69) is waiting for sentencing at the Crown Court at the moment and his solicitor has told him there is a high chance of a prison sentence. I'm getting together a bag for him to take to court just in case, although hope it won't be needed.

  69. Hi again
    I forgot to ask whether a small MP3 player would be allowed?

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  71. hi can you learn a trade in jail so u can get a good job when u get out

  72. Hi Alex thanks for taking time to write this comprehensive blog and answer questions. I am possibly being sentenced at the end of January. About clothes; are normal trousers and shirts allowed as opposed to trainers etc. I might not get to wear my own clothes at all of course but would like to know. Also nothing black, as you say, but how about navy blue or should I take your comment about lighter blues being only what is permitted. Happy New Year to you by the way.

  73. About my above question I meant normal shirts and trousers not jogging bottoms etc. thanks again.

  74. Thanks Alex for all the above. As a smoker I am wondering how much tobacco I could take with me and also will I allowed to take in any lighters?

  75. I'm up for a street robbery that I didn't commit. But was there so getting done by association. Any advice? I am not guilty of robbery but on cctv where I was drunk I haven't helped myself

  76. Please could you explain about the differdnt category prisons mentioned in your very helpful blog

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  78. I was going through a bad period having lost my wife to cancer. Never left the house or opened the curtains. I am 76. I eventually started looking at online porn. Downloaded some that turned out to be child porn, Deleted everything immediately. Months later 4 police offices came round, said that they believed I had downloaded child porn. I said what had happened and co-operated with them all the way through. They searched my house from top to bottom and took loads away. Everything came back apart from the laptop, they had recovered the deleted stuff some how.
    I am due to appear at Crown court in 9 days time.
    My question is, am I likely to be attacked if/when sent down? I have angina and if attacked it could be serious. Could I request to be in solitary confinement for safety reasons? Never ever been in trouble with the police before.

    1. Hi. Apologies for the delay in responding. Firstly, although I have to state that I'm not a lawyer, I'd be amazed if you received a custodial sentence for a first-time offence of downloading child abuse images - unless they were in a particularly serious category had been purchased or distributed by yourself. General speaking, most first-time downloaders seem to receive a community sentence along with a requirement to complete an offending behaviour course to reduce the risk of such offences being committed in the future.

      However, to answer your specific question above, people convicted of sexual offences and given a custodial term are almost always placed in what are known as Vulnerable Prisoner Units (VPUs). These units house people who are considered to be vulnerable to bullying or assaults from other prisoners on main wings ('the mains'). There aren't just for sex offenders but include other potentially vulnerable people such as former prison or police officers, prisoners suspected of informing on other inmates ('grasses') and some prisoners who have mental health problems.

      Prisoners held on a VPU are not supposed to come into contact with mains inmates and attend education, work and exercise completely separately. So if you do receive a custodial sentence, rest assured it is very unlikely that you would face any violence on a VPU.

      Occasionally, VPUs at specific prisons might be full. In such cases you might face a short spell in a segregation unit until a space becomes available, but it's unlikely. As regards your medical conditions, make sure that you take a copy of a recent prescription with you to court. If you do receive a short prison term ensure you hand this to the healthcare staff during your initial medical assessment in Reception at the prison.

      I hope that answers your questions. Alex

  79. Hi Alex. Sorry if this question gets posted twice I think there's a problem with my server! Just wondering what constitutes to "good behaviour" in prison. Is it a sort of gold star system? And who keeps track? Also do you think a kindle electronic book might be permitted? Thanks, Sarah

  80. My son was sentenced to 10 months, i assume he will serve half in which case he should be released in 16 days however he was enhanced and due to cell search they found tobacco which he admitted was his, they also found mobile phone which belonged to Muslim terrorist who denied ownership. My son was interviewed and regressed from enhanced to basic. Is it likely he will still have his release date. Glenda

  81. Hi Alex can I ask how they decide what prison as I am Going in soon. I'm in Cambridge so court to.Peterborough as first holding I understand but who decides after that. My elderly parents can't travel too far.cheers michael

  82. Hi Alex, going to be up in crown for sentence in next couple of weeks. Not been in prison for 15 years now. Not looking forward to it, only myself to blame! Can you take E cigs in? And how about mmp3 players with earphones, ipods for example?
    You're doing a great service. Been reading all the comments. Very helpful. Thanks.

  83. Hi Alex,I know you have given a list of clothing but my son is going to prison for the first time, I assume he wont need to take that much to start, what should a small holdall have in it,just basic stuff?

  84. Hi Tommy,
    Great read through this post loads and loads of info, however i wondered can you let me know if your able to take tobacco products in with you or not and if so is there a limit as to how much? for example multi packs of tobacco and rizla etc. Thanks ever so much in advance for your response

  85. Is there a maximum amount of cash i can take in?

  86. My son was imprisoned 3 weeks ago and was sentenced to 28months. I have learned more reading this page than my son has in his 3 weeks inside. Thank you so much for sharing as it's harder than ever at the min for both prisoners and family members with covid restrictions.