The rules around prison visits in England and Wales vary depending on the prisoner’s status and the level of risk associated with that prisoner.
Everyone has certain legal rights, including those who have been accused or convicted of a criminal offence. If you are being held at a police station or prison, contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. We specialise in criminal defence law and can ensure your rights are upheld. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Prison visits – who can visit and when?
The Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on prison visits, with visitors being limited or prevented altogether. Now restrictions are easing, we are expecting a gradual return to normality. In light of this, our criminal defence solicitors have outlined what is – and what is not – allowed when it comes to prison visits.
First things first: who is allowed to visit and when?
There is no limit to the number of visits a prisoner can have from a legal representative or probation officer. However, when it comes to social visits from family and friends, the rules all depend on the prisoner’s status.
Remanded in custody – if the defendant is being remanded in custody until their trial or sentencing hearing, then he or she is allowed a social visit at least three times a week. A visiting order may or may not be needed.
Immediately after conviction – if the defendant is sentenced to jail-time, he or she is allowed to have someone visit them within the first 72 hours of their arrival at prison. This is known as a ‘reception visit’. A visiting order is not needed.
During the prison sentence – going forward, a convicted prisoner is entitled to one social visit per fortnight and one weekend visit every four weeks. These visits can be up to one hour long. A visiting order is needed. The prison governor can decide to allow additional visits, under certain circumstances.
During a social visit, the prisoner is permitted to see three adults plus any number of accompanying children. Children under the age of 18 cannot visit a prisoner alone; they must be accompanied by an adult.
What’s allowed during a prison visit?
So long as it is not a ‘closed visit’, the prisoner and the visitor will be seated in the same room. Reasonable physical contact, such as a hug, should be allowed. However, the visitor is not allowed to give anything to the prisoner, like a mobile phone. In fact, the visitor will have to leave all their belongings in a locker, before entering the room. To ensure these rules are adhered to, the visitor may be patted down by a prison guard and asked to walk through a security arch, just like you do at the airport.
If prison guards believe there is a reasonable risk that the visitor will smuggle contraband to the prisoner, then they may decide that any visits should be ‘closed visits’. The exact nature of a closed visit depends on the prison’s facilities. The visit may be placed under strict supervision, or the prisoner and visitor may be kept physically separate with a pane of glass. Closed visits do not impact the prisoner’s entitlement to visitors and usually only last for three months, after which the decision should be reviewed.
If any visitors are caught smuggling items into a prison, they can be banned. Again, this decision would normally be re-assessed after three months.
How to visit someone in prison
First, it is necessary to check whether a visiting order is needed. If so, the visiting order must be completed by the prisoner and sent to the visitor. The visitor can then book their visit with the prison in question. This can now be done online.
Visitors to category A (high security) prisons may have to be security checked and approved before they are allowed to visit.
If you need a criminal defence solicitor, contact us now for a free initial enquiry.
Call 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.