Visiting someone in prison

Prison visits can help you stay in touch with someone in prison who is either serving a sentence or waiting for their trial. Each prison can have slightly different rules on when and how often you can visit. Find out what to expect when you visit someone in prison.

Finding out about a prison’s visiting rules

Prisons can have slightly different rules on things like when and how often you can visit someone in prison.

Prison staff can let you know about things like:

  • their facilities if you are disabled – for example, wheelchair access
  • what happens on the day you visit
  • what you can, and can’t take into the prison

If you’re unsure of the rules, get in contact with the prison. 

How often you can visit someone in prison

A convicted prisoner is allowed at least two 60-minute visits every four weeks

A prisoner on remand (waiting for their trial) is allowed three 60-minute visits a week.

A convicted prisoner is allowed at least two 60-minute visits every four weeks.

Some prisons allow more visits as a reward for good behaviour.

If you live a long way from the prison, the prisoner can ask to ‘save up’ visits. This means that you can make longer visits, but less often.

Prisoners can also ask for a temporary transfer so that visits are held at a prison closer to home – the prison may agree to this.

Number of visitors a prisoner can have

Normally, no more than three adults can visit a prisoner at the same time.

If you want to visit with a larger number of people (including children), you should tell the prison when you book your visit.

Children who want to visit their parent in prison

The prisoner’s children can normally visit them. Anyone under 18 years old must normally visit with an adult.

Children that aren’t related to the prisoner can also normally visit but there may be rules about this, depending on the prisoner and the prison.

How to plan your prison visit

You can only visit a prisoner if they want you to visit them.

Before you can visit a convicted prisoner, the prisoner applies for a document called a ‘visiting order’ (VO). This is then sent to you by the prison.

The visiting order should state the prison telephone booking number. Some prisons let you book visits by email.

(If you’re visiting a prisoner on remand – waiting for their trial – you do not need a visiting order.)

Arriving for your prison visit 

You must take the visiting order and ID with you when you go to the prison

You must take the visiting order with you when you go to the prison. It should include:

  • the names of all visitors
  • date of birth, address and relationship to the prisoner if any visitors are under the age of 18

You must also take identification with you, for example your:

  • passport
  • driving licence

If you don’t have either of these, contact the prison.

Your own possessions

When you arrive, you normally have to leave items like your mobile phone, bag and any medication in a locker at the prison’s visitors’ area.

What you can’t take into the prison 

Different prisons allow different things to be taken in and given to a prisoner – for example, food and drink are not normally allowed.

You should check with the prison before you visit.

Anything you want to take in must be given to the officer in charge of visits to check when you arrive.

You could also be searched. If you refuse, you’re not allowed to see the prisoner.

Things you cannot bring into prison

If you try and smuggle banned items into the prison you can be banned from visiting the prison for several months or even arrested.

It’s a criminal offence for certain items to be brought into any prison, including:

  • illegal drugs
  • weapons
  • alcohol
  • mobile phones
  • cameras

Where you meet the person you’re visiting

When you visit someone in prison you talk with them in the prison ‘visits room’.

This is usually a room with chairs and tables where other prisoners are also meeting visitors. Sometimes there are screens between you and the person you’re visiting. This is to stop you passing banned items to the prisoner.

Prison staff are in the room but they are far enough away so you can have a private conversation.

Help with travel costs if you’re on a low income

If you’re aged over 18 and on a low income, you may get help with the cost of visiting a close relative or partner in prison.
This is through the ‘Assisted Prison Visits Scheme’. To be able to do this you must be claiming a certain benefit(s), like:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance

To find out more about the scheme contact the prison, or the Assisted Prison Visits Unit.

Have a look at our page on the Assisted Prison Visiting Scheme.