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Information about prisoners on Adviceguide

The information for prisoners on Adviceguide is about how to sort out problems you might have when you're in prison. It doesn't cover the reason why you're in prison.

If you want information about things like whether you can appeal against your prison sentence or what to do if your legal rights were not kept to, you should consult a solicitor. This could be the solicitor who acted for you in the first place or another solicitor. If you were not represented by a solicitor before you went to prison, it is very important to get specialist help as soon as possible.

For more information about how to get specialist help, see Prisoners - getting further help in Prisoners' fact sheets.

Convicted and unconvicted prisoners

The rules about prisoners may depend on whether you are a convicted or an unconvicted prisoner.

You're a convicted prisoner if:

  • you've been convicted, or
  • you've been found guilty of an offence, or
  • you pleaded guilty to an offence even if you haven't yet been sentenced.

You are an unconvicted prisoner if you are awaiting trial or in the middle of a trial.

Rights in prison

You have certain rights and privileges when you’re in prison. The rules are written down and they are available in prison libraries. Ask to see the Prison Standing Orders (PSOs) and the Prison Service Instructions (PSIs). You can also find the PSOs and the PSIs on the Ministry of Justice website at

The Prison Service and the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) have co-written a guide to prisoners’ rights and a copy of this should be given to you when you arrive in prison. If you're disabled, you should also get a guide called 'Information for disabled prisoners' when you arrive in prison.

If you aren't in prison, you can get copies of the guides from PRT at:

15 Northburgh Street

Tel: 0207 251 5070

If you want to know more about rights and privileges in prison, you should consult a specialist adviser. For details of organisations that can help, see Prisoners – getting further help in Prisoners' fact sheets.

Complaints about conditions in prison

If you have a problem with conditions in prison, there are rules about how you can try and sort the problem out. You might need specialist help to try and sort out a problem.

For more information about what to do if you have a problem with conditions in prison, see Prisoners – making a complaint in Prisoners' fact sheets.

Property in prison

There are rules about the things you can keep with you in prison.

For more information about property in prison, see Prisoners – problems with property in Prisoners' fact sheets.

Keeping in touch while you're in prison

If you're in prison, it's very important to try and keep in touch with friends and family. There are rules about letters, phone calls and visits while you're in prison.

For more information about keeping in touch while you're in prison, see Prisoners – letters, Prisoners – phone calls and Prisoners – visits in Prisoners' fact sheets.

Benefits and prisoners

You may have problems with benefits, either when you first go into prison, or when you leave prison. In some cases, there are different rules for prisoners than for other people claiming benefits.

For more information about prisoners and benefits, see Prisoners and benefits in Prisoners' fact sheets.

Housing and prisoners

If you're in prison, you might have a problem holding onto your home for when you come out. When you leave prison, you might need help finding accommodation.

For more information about how to hold onto your home when you're in prison and how to find accommodation when you come out, see Prisoners and housing in Prisoners' fact sheets.

Discrimination in prison

There are rules to stop you being treated unfairly in prison, for example, because of your race or because you're disabled. This is called discrimination. Your visitors should not be discriminated against either.

For more information about discrimination in prison, see Discrimination in prison, in Prisoners' fact sheets.

Health in prison

If you're in prison, you should get the same health services as you'd get from the NHS.

For more information about health in prisons, see Health in prison, in Prisoners' fact sheets.

Early release from prison

Some prisoners might get released from prison early and can serve the rest of their sentences in the community. You have to follow rules during this time. If you break the rules, you can be sent back to prison.

For more information about the rules when you're released from prison early and what can happen if you break the rules, see Early release – serving your prison sentence in the community in Prisoners' fact sheets.

Leaving prison

You can get help to deal with the problems you can face when you leave prison.

For more information about leaving prison, see Leaving prison in Prisoners' fact sheets.

Getting further help

Citizens Advice Bureaux

Citizens Advice Bureaux give free, confidential, impartial and independent advice to help you solve any sort of problem, such as benefits, debt, discrimination and family problems. They can also help with particular problems that you might have if you’re in prison or if a member of your family is in prison.

Some Citizens Advice Bureaux run advice sessions in prison. If you're in prison, check if they run these sessions in your prison. If they don't run advice sessions, you could write to your local CAB and explain your problem. Ask a member of the prison staff for the address of your local CAB.

If you're not in prison, and you want to find your nearest CAB, including those that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB, or look under C in your phone book.

Specialist organisations

You may need help from an organisation that specialises in advising prisoners and their families.

For details of specialist organisations, see Prisoners – getting further help in Prisoners' fact sheets.