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Serving a Prison Sentence: Prisoner's Rights

By: Liz Lennox - Updated: 13 Nov 2021 | comments*Discuss
Prison Prisoners Crime Legal Convicted

Anyone convicted of a crime in the UK, or being held on remand pending trial, will not be able to avail themselves of the full extent of the rights currently on the law books, or protected by the European Court of Human Rights. However, this does not mean that they become sub-human or less deserving of respect and dignity than anyone else, it just means that they are subject to certain restrictions.


Upon arrival in prison you will be searched for any items that are not permitted in the prison, such as weapons or drugs etc. Any cash that you are holding will be confiscated and placed into a special account for your use. This may all seem a bit harsh but you need to bear in mind that the prison system is not designed to be a holiday-camp, recent headlines notwithstanding.

Each prisoner is required, as part of their time in Prison, to abide by the rules laid down by the Prison Act 1952 and also to any rules or regulations that cover that particular establishment.

Once you have been searched and assessed you will be allocated a certain category based, in part, on your offence and on your behaviour. The basic regime has the strictest rules and fewer privileges than its more favourable counterparts (the standard or enhanced). Also, again dependant on your particular offence, you may be immediately segregated from the rest of the prison population. Many critics of the prison system would say that this is not necessary; that all prisoners should be together and whatever happens; happens. This would be a breach of one of the most fundamental human rights; protection of the body and respect for dignity.

Contact with Family

It is a breach of the Prison Act to deny a prisoner the ability to contact his family and loved ones. Therefore card or PIN telephones are available in all prisons however, for security purposes, all calls are taped except those to legal counsel, the Samaritans or other similar organisations. In some cases, as a punishment, the Governor may restrict phone use although this is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In addition to phone rights the Prisoners also have the right to send two letters to loved ones; one ‘statutory’ letter and one ‘privilege’ letter. The privilege letter can be stopped as a punishment but the statutory one cannot. All letters coming from inmates of High-security prisons and Category A offenders will be read and possibly censored. This also covers letters to legal counsel, although this is just intended as a measure to ensure that it is actually legal in nature and not a ploy intended to assist the inmate in breaking the rules or committing further offences.

In addition the Governor of the prison, no matter which category, has the power to send back letters sent to inmates if they are too long or if there are too many arriving. This may be a breach of personal freedom but this must be offset with the need to keep order in the prison system.


Make no mistake, no matter what your crime, you will be subject to the Prison Rules while you are a ‘guest of the state’, however many of your basic rights are unchanged. You still have the right to food, protection from assault and access to the courts. What you lose are your civil right to vote and your right to personal freedom, among others.

What we have at the present are basic needs being met in the form of food, housing, work, education, protection and acknowledgement of the family unit.The law is still developing in this area and it may be that further rights are introduced as the law changes; it may also be that rights are removed by necessity or for security reasons. Whether the Rules past, present and future can stand up to the scrutiny of the European Court of Human Rights is a matter for the Prisoners groups and the Lawmakers but the prison system is its own society and therefore any proposals for change in this area will be the subject of intense debate.

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My 74 yr old partner has just been sentenced for his first offence (fraud) not thinking straight due to circumstances involving emotional abuse. He has been in for nearly 5 weeks and is straight in at category D. He is suffering severe depression because of his abuse along with the present circumstances and had just started counselling. Nobody ever expected a custodial sentence. He has had a total of 1hr of fresh air in 19 days. How is this supposed to help his mental health. Because he is retired he is locked up at least 21 hours every day, now they let someone in without testing for covid (they had it) and he’s been isolating for 10 days. He is not getting gifts delivered to him (11days) now. I’ve not received a letter he wrote to me. This is all new to us and we don’t know who to contact
Loulou - 13-Nov-21 @ 2:55 PM
My boyfriend was transferred to a Cat D after waiting almost 6 after approval only to be transferred straight back to previous prison after only a week due to upcoming court case next month. Is this normal? Any advice?
Nina - 2-Sep-21 @ 3:13 PM
So my boyfriend got sentenced to 30 months in prison and he got told he could be out in 6 months on electronic tag he had an email through today telling him he's not able to have it and has to do 12 months now. Can he fight against this at all? He messed up over 2 years ago and has been good since and changed his life completely around. Got a good paying job, has a family etc. Any advice would be so grateful. Thank you
Chally21 - 16-Jul-21 @ 3:38 PM
imworried about a prisoners mental health hes not recieving medication hes cutting himsellf and i cant get in touch with the prison at all to report my concerns and he hasnt reported this is there any bpdy else i can contact tonight
nicky - 30-Jun-21 @ 10:18 PM
How long can they make a person sit in the court clothes it’s coming on fourteen days is this normal please?
worriedsick - 10-Jun-21 @ 9:53 AM
My partner applied for cat d February and has been accepted but nothing has been done how long should it take
Marmar - 25-May-21 @ 1:38 PM
My partner is serving a long sentence and he gets treated awful in Highpoint the staff are discriminating racist and demoralise the prisoners and certainly don’t respect their human rights my partner has been crying in pain for 3 days now as he has a nerve condition in his spine and he couldn’t get up out of his bed the staff bought 2 tablets for him he asked them could they pls get him some water and the staff laughed and walked out and this is the sad reality of how our loved ones are being treated they have no rights in prisons the staff hold all the power I thought respect was a 2 way street they may be criminals but let’s not forget they are still humans so sad in this day and age the truth has also been locked behind prisons doors
Lodders - 13-May-21 @ 10:15 AM
UK prisons are notorious for ignoring prison rules, and also prisoners rights (what little they have). Satanists cant have their bible, you have to earn the privilege to wear your own clothes (yet this is a right), they may force you to work (even though it should be 'offered'), and sometimes you dont get your 'hour exercise outside'. On top of this, the cells are single person cells, so there shouldnt be two people in it! Prison, and our justice system, is all crap!
ElDiablo666 - 16-Apr-21 @ 12:35 AM
My sister is in HMP Peterborough , locked in 23 and a half hours a day since March 2020 , her health has deteriorated so has her mental health ,I am so worried about her ! She has had no visits , who do we contact for help
Ali - 30-Mar-21 @ 11:35 PM
My son is in HMP liverpool ,locked in 23 and a half hours a day ,was due to be released on tag but due to incompetent probation officer who never has the decency to answers calls and governor who doesnt give a damn about prisoners ,never admits they have done things wrong ,at one stage they actually breeched his rights by cutting off his phone to his family,,prisoners and families are left with no support .
Kittykat - 12-Mar-21 @ 5:26 PM
So many comments about prisoners being locked in their cell 24/7 why is nothing being done? My husband is also locked up for 24 hours a day. He hasn’t seen his children in 6 months. How can the prison system keep them in isolation for so long? When will they listen? When enough people start harming themselves?
Nat - 22-Feb-21 @ 3:11 PM
My son asked to his Nomis, after a while he received it but it had been given to another prisoner first by mistake. This other prisoner kept it overnight, long enough to have a good read or copy things. My son put in a Comp 1 and Comp 2 but has had no response other than his CM saying the prison knows it’s a very bad mistake to make and a report has been written. He was asked if he wanted to change prisons, my son said no, he’s ‘settled’ if you ever can be and knows who and who not to talk to. What’s his next step? Where does his next complaint go to and what is the best he can expect?
Cat - 12-Feb-21 @ 9:06 AM
My son is in the last two years of a statutory life sentence awaiting a move to open prison . They are on 24 hour bang up due to coividhave meals brought to cell, no exercise and little to no health care checks. Hes had no family visits for 14 months now and get no idea of what is going on re his status. I understand completely that there are exceptional circumstances but surely if this is the way things are going to be for the foreseeable future then every day life has to be reassessed and adjusted for all concerned?
Beverly Giles - 25-Jan-21 @ 12:23 PM
My brother in law has been refused his D Cat twice now because the police have raised concerns about him however they have not given him the chance to see what he would do as they keep refusing him D Cat, is this right? Also HM Parc have had them locked in their rooms now since March 23 hours a day recently over Christmas they never allowed them to leave their rooms for a shower or wash their clothes aswell. Parc also wrote a statement in walesonline that on Christmas Day the prisoners would be involved in a number of activities such as pool, bingo, the gym none of these activities were played by prisoners. Surely they are not allowed to treat human beings this way it is against their human rights.
Tasha - 29-Dec-20 @ 9:40 PM
My son has been in Altcourse now for 3 weeks or so , he has been moved to a new wing , one which he expressly asked not to go on for personal reasons. He has been given a bunk which has a mattress no thicker than a piece of paper, he has requested a differentone for at least 3 days as he is getting no sleep at all, which is detrimental to his health. All requests are being ignored. Please could anyone give me advice as what to do?
Mags - 18-Dec-20 @ 11:53 AM
My 18 year old son has been on remand since September. He was transferred to Thameside prison on Friday for a court appearance of 30 seconds that could of been done by video link and allowed him to remain in Wandsworth . It’s been a week and we have had no contact. I’ve sent money and emails requesting a response, nothing. My sons friend has contacted me last 2 days my son has been able to call friends but the prison has blocked family calls. My son says he is being abused and refused a risk assessment even though he has a Mental health diagnosis. They put him down the block for 2plus days, when he arrived for setting off the scanner when walking thru it, he had nothing. They’ve put him in segregation now and refused him his canteen, clothes, legal documents. He is locked up and not allowed out of the cell and the guards are taking his prison phone, so he is unable to make calls. I’ve informed my Solicitor but no response, please can somebody tell me if this is legal?
Cece - 11-Dec-20 @ 8:06 AM
May son is in HMP Aylesbury .He get some skin infection 1officer said us look like a scabies then come nurse and stated that it was not scabies, but staphylococcus, but that scabies ointment left him .Next day in the morning doctor come but also wasn't sure. He said he would bring him an antibiotic and ointments. It is now 11pm my son has not received any ointments or antibiotics. His wounds started to burst and pus oozes out of them,it itches terribly!.Nobody responds to his requests.How can I help him.My heart breaks.
Emi - 8-Dec-20 @ 11:41 PM
Hi my son is in Dovegate which is miles away from Newcastle he has served 2 and a half years for a 8 yr sentence he is currently in cat b but has been knocked back for cat b as he's in therapy but this is not on atm he wants to get cat c so he can move prison closer to home and his family he has 2 sons one that he hasn't seen since he was 1 please could you let me know how long he has to do or if he still will get cat d next year also they are locking them all up all day xmas is this right . thankyou
helen - 8-Dec-20 @ 12:31 PM
My friends son was sentenced to 4 years in HMP Grampian, that was five months ago, the police rammed him off the road and he suffered a head trauma this was never seen to. He complained of a sore back since he went in and 2 weeks ago he was passing blood, nothing was done until his solicitor contacted the governor, where a young Dr came to see him did a urine test and gave him antibiotics a week later. Another older Dr told him it was anxiety, he was then put in a cell the next day by himself (med obs) with no access to his antibiotics. He is now very unwell sore back, lung and chest pains and has passed foul smelling urine and stools but they still haven't taken him to the hospital for a scan. Second complaint going in. Most people would have been up in A&E by this point. My friend has geared herself up to never seeing her son again or even possibly donating a kidney to him at Christmas. Nobody deserves to be left untreated health wise. If anybody has ever heard of anxiety being the cause of blood in the stools or urine then please show me the evidence!!!
Reach - 28-Nov-20 @ 10:10 PM
My partner has been in there for 3 weeks, they have locked him up 24 hours a day and won’t even let him out to get some fresh air. He is loosing his mind and saying he will harm himself. I have tried everything under the sun to contact the prison and no one cares I am struggling so much to come to terms with how the have no rights. Has anyone had any help??
Emily - 7-Nov-20 @ 5:49 PM
My son iscurrently in dove gate prison he has not been let out of his cell since monday, hes not been allowed to shower or have clean clothes, they have said it's down to covid but he had a test 3 days ago and still no results
Ian highcock - 6-Nov-20 @ 2:58 PM
My partner has been in prison for 8 months now. 2 months ago we bought him brand new clothes and shoes for him to wear and sent them off. The prison kept telling him every weekend that his clothes were coming on that same weekend however its been over a month now. Other people have received their things.
Elene - 4-Nov-20 @ 2:24 AM
My son is in forest bank he has been there 2 weeks.He is not getting his food write thay dont always give him water for a drink.And thay also are not letting him have a tv like all others.He is in there 24 hours a day not even getting a shower
Rose - 28-Oct-20 @ 7:48 PM
My Partner was Remanded and sent to a prison a week ago, I haven't had any contact with him neither has his mum. Can't get his prisoner number as prison have said it's for him to tell us! We were told to write and send a postal order with his full name and all other details of his and it should get to him. We sent all this a week ago still waiting to hear.Is this normal?? as this is completely new for me.
Kerry - 24-Oct-20 @ 12:37 AM
I read all stories here, some very similar to my situation. Is there any reply?
Moon - 19-Oct-20 @ 10:53 PM
My partner got 7 years and 3 months and has to serve two thirds of his sentence , so he is to serve 4 yearsand 9 months , his release date is 2025 and his rotl date is 2023 so he has to serve 2 years 9 months before he can get to a category d prison , I'm being told you can get category d with 3 years left of your sentence is this correct ? And how would my partner do this , thanks Jess.
Jess - 2-Oct-20 @ 1:03 AM
In response to comment from Jackie - as long as you have his prison number you can send him a same day message on emailaprisoner this is printed and put under his door
Jake - 26-Sep-20 @ 1:14 AM
My son is in hmp gartree I've been waiting for a call off him for nearly 2 weeks it's so unlike him not to contact us I'm going out of my mind with worry as the prison won't tell me anything is there any where I can get help to find out what's going on he has money and letters off us but not contacted any of us
Jackie - 30-Aug-20 @ 3:15 PM
My son is in prison been infor 3 weeks weve not heard from him we have rang every one but no will help .we sent letters emails . Money.But nothing comes back we dont understand. Even been on to his solicitor.But hes not done anything
Rose - 20-Aug-20 @ 7:58 PM
My son is in prison but not heard from him for over a month dispite writing letters and asking prison for information they say they cant tell me anything unless my son gives permission I'm so worried about him as its unlike him not to phone me
Annie - 5-Aug-20 @ 12:25 AM
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