This page explains the rules and procedures for staying in touch with someone in prison. You can make contact with a prisoner by personal visit, by letter, and through telephone calls.
Note: The Ministry of Justice released information on the temporary cancellation of prison visits. They instruct people to stay at home, to protect the NHS, and help save lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
LETTERS TO PRISONERS: You can keep in touch with a prisoner by writing a letter to them.
As a rule there is no maximum limit on the number of letters you can send to someone in prison.
But, most letters sent to a prison, and from, will get read and checked by the prison staff.
Generally, staff and wardens cannot open letters from solicitors and from the courts. There are exceptions, such as if they suspect whether a letter is actually from a legal adviser.
You can make a complaint to the prison if:
How do you keep in touch with a prisoner by telephone? In this case the prisoner must make the call to you using a prison telephone.
Note: The rules of prison life mean the staff can listen to, and record, almost all types of phone calls. Telephone calls which do not get monitored would be those made to a legal adviser.
Prisoners do not get access to social networking websites while they are in custody. That means they cannot use as Facebook or Twitter.
Families and friends of prisoners cannot send a direct email to them while they are doing time. But some prisons use a service called Email a Prisoner. Sending a message this way means it will get printed out and then hand delivered by prison staff.
All public and private prisons, along with young offender institutions (YOIs), across England and Wales now have secure video calls running.
This facility helps to maintain vital family ties and provides a welcome boost to rehabilitation during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Note: You need to buy credit to use this service and each email costs 40 pence. Prisoners can also reply through Email a Prisoner in selected detention centers. You can use the 'find a prison' service for further details.
A list of items you must not send to a prisoner, or give, includes anything:
Likewise, you must not take anything written by a prisoner that they want to have published and get paid for.
It is a criminal offence in the United Kingdom to send or give a prisoner:
There are several ways that you can send money to someone who is serving time in a prison, such as:
First you need to get the bank details and a reference for the prisoner who you want to send money to. Following that, you can use online banking to transfer the money. The same process applies for payment by mobile banking app or by telephone banking.
Note: The prisoner will not receive the money if you make a transfer from a bank branch or from a non-UK bank account.
It is an easy process to make an online payment to someone in prison using a debit card.
You can send cash to someone in prison. But, sending a cheque or postal order to prison is more secure. Make cheques or postal orders payable to 'NOMS Agency' (National Offender Management Service).
Address the envelope to the governor of the prison and make sure your letter includes:
The money gets paid into their prisoner account. It will be a basic cash account that they can use to send money and receive payments.
You should make direct contact with the specific private prison if you want to send money to someone inside.
You can only visit a prisoner if they agree to you visiting them. The rules of prison allow you to make an online request to visit someone who is serving a sentence.
But, not all prisons in the United Kingdom have the facility to request a prison visit online. In this case you should contact the prison to clarify:
Note: Detention centers have different rules for certain things. For example when to visit, how often you can visit, and the number of visitors allowed at the same time.
Note: Living a long distance away from the prison means you may get longer visits, but not so often.
Those who are at least 18 may get help with the cost of visiting a close relative or partner inside a prison. You may be eligible for financial support if you claim:
To get help with travel costs, complete the application form and send it to the address written on the form. Read the guidance notes before you apply and the hand it to a member of the prison visits staff.
More information is available from the Assisted Prison Visits Unit.
Assisted Prison Visits Unit
Telephone: 0300 063 2100
Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm
PO Box 2152, Birmingham, B15 1SD
Find out about call charges.
How to Contact Someone in Prison in the United Kingdom and Keep in Touch