How do I arrange a visit?
Visiting procedures vary from prison to prison. It also depends whether the person you are visiting is on remand, or is a convicted prisoner.
To find out what the visiting arrangements are for a particular prison, you can
Some prisons have play areas within the prison visits hall, with toys and games and playworkers, which can help to make the visits less scary for children. Find out about the play services Pact runs at various prisons across England.
Some prisons require you to provide ID for children as well as adults. Check with the prison or Visitors' Centre for advice.
Can I get any help with the cost of visiting?
If you are on a low income or you receive benefits, you might be entitled to get help from the government with the cost of visiting your relative in prison. Help is provided by the Assisted Prison Visits Unit (APVU). You can claim for two visits a month.
For more information about the APVU, visit the Ministry of Justice Website.
Every prison is different. The staff and volunteers at the visitors' centre can tell you in detail what it's like to visit someone at that particular prison.
You might want to give the prisoner some of his or her property e.g. items of their clothing. At most prisons, there is a property desk where visitors can hand in property for a prisoner. Each prison has its own strict rules about how to submit property, and what items can be handed in, so you should check with the prison before doing anything.
I'm worried about my relative - who do I talk to?
If you are worried about a prisoner who has suicidal feelings or is in danger of harming themselves, please talk to someone straight away. You can either call the visitors' centre, or phone the prison and ask to speak to the Duty Governor or the Orderly Officer.
More sources of help and advice
If you have further questions and would like to speak with a member of the Pact team, please call our freephone prisoners' family and friends helpline on 0808 808 3444.
On the Ministry of Justice website you can find a huge amount of information, including visiting times and procedures for each prison, links to support organisations, a prison 'virtual tour', and much more
Prison Service Orders - the official prison guidance on visits and correspondence
The Prison Service is governed by a series of rules, regulations and guidelines known as Prison Service Instructions (PSIs) and Prison Service Orders (PSOs). These are mandatory instructions that all prisons are supposed to abide by.