Each prison is different, it has different categories of prisoners, it is built in a different way and Governors are Kings of their own Castles. So each Prison interprets the rules in a different way. I can only tell you what happened to me. I found that visits, letters and phone calls were my life line. If I had had some phone cards I could have wished my children Merry Christmas on the big day, instead I was locked away.
Except for prisoners on The Block, all prisoners are entitled to visits. See The Regime to view the entitlement. Most prisons start new inmates on Standard Regime. Visitors cannot just turn up at the Prison Gates and expect to see you, they can only visit you if you have invited them. Note special rules apply to remand prisoners.
You will need to ask for a VO form from your Wing or Landing Officer. In my prison the inmate filled in the form, put it in the envelope addressed to the person invited and then you post the envelope with it unsealed. The Wing Officer or a member of his staff should stamp the VO form to indicate that the visit is authorized.
Each invitation is good for 3 adults and as many children under 18 that are happy to stand up. If you try taking a class full I am sure the Prison will object and some do put a limit on the number of children. The invitation has to give the name and address of one of the adults and that adult must come to the prison otherwise the invitation is invalid.
Note: Even if you get to Prison near the end of the month you are still entitled to a complete month's value of visits. Use them all if you can.
Many Prisons operate a booking system but that is for the visitor to organize.
When the visit is due you will be advised and have to attend the visitors center. You will be searched and this can include an internal body search. Some Prisons do a drug and alcohol test after visits. Most Prisons will not allow too much body contact but young children seem exempt from this restriction.
You are encouraged to write home and keep in touch. The Prison Service has realised that inmates who can do this are less likely to return. Each Sunday you will receive one letter which will be posted at public expense this comprises one envelope and one sheet of paper. The letter will go second class though you can buy extra stamps to top it up to first class. In most prisons you will have to leave your letters open and they are liable to be read by Prison Staff. Incoming letters are almost always opened and read and the stamps removed just in case the sender has hidden drugs under the stamps.
You cannot have stamps sent into the prison.
Write the full Prisoner Number and surname on the envelope.
Some Prisons seem to restrict what can be sent into Prison in an envelope. One man was sent a Football Programme - it was confiscated and he never saw it again. I was sent a magazine and I actually received it. Why the difference I will never know.
You will be allowed to make phone calls but only using the Prison telephone cards. Normal phone cards will not work inside. The price per minute reflects the cost of providing the service so for local calls the cost is more expensive but for long distance somewhat cheaper.
Phone calls can be monitored by Prison staff and if your conduct or language falls below certain standards then your right to use phones could be discontinued. Making threatening phone calls to the wife you have just assaulted is not a good idea.
Phone cards can be bought from the Canteen at £2 each.
Phone cards quickly become the currency of the Prison. If you want to buy extra tobacco from inmates, or drugs or alcohol then the trade is done in Phone Cards. Many fights start because of non-payment of debts. Don't lend or borrow - a good practice for survival in prison.