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Visiting a Prison

Prison visits are an important part of helping prisoners to stay in contact with their families.  

Prisoners are entitled to visits from families and friends.  They are also entitled to legal and chaplaincy visits.

How to arrange a visit

Prisoners are given a booking reference number which they must pass on in advance to their intended visitor.  The visitor should quote this number when booking a visit.  No reference number is needed for the first committal visit.   The names of ALL people including the names and ages of children intending to visit should be given in advance.

Special Requirements

It is advisable for visitors with special requirements, such as wheelchair access, to inform the prison when making the booking. This will enable the prison to make suitable arrangements in advance of the visit.

Child-Centred Visits

Child-centred visits create special opportunities for parents/grandparents to bond with their children/grandchildren. Staff in the visits area can provide more information about child-centred visits.

Extended Visits Scheme for Mothers and Children

In addition to normal domestic visits, and child-centred visits, mothers in custody can apply to participate in the extended visits scheme for mothers and children. Any woman with a child under the age of 18 can apply to participate in the scheme but each application will be considered on its individual merits.

More information about the extended visits scheme for mothers and children is available from staff in visits.

What a visitor can bring for prisoners

Prisoners in Northern Ireland are permitted to wear their own clothes. If they do not wish to supply any or all of their own clothing certain items can be provided by the prison.

Clothing parcels may be signed in at visits reception. Prisoners are limited to what clothing they are permitted to wear and as all laundry is carried out within the prison so all clothing must be machine washable.

Inmates Personal Cash

Inmate/prisoner accounts will be limited to a maximum of £500.

Money for prisoners will only be allowed to be left at the visitors reception by a domestic visitor to that particular prisoner.   No money will be accepted by post.

Prisoners are not allowed to pass any money out of the prison without the written permission of the Governor.

Prisoners can spend money in their personal accounts in the following ways:

  • Telephone – each prisoner is issued with a personal identification number which will allow them to  dial any one of up to 20 pre-stored numbers.
  • Tuckshop – prisoners can purchases, groceries, sweets, cigarettes, radios and playstations.

Spending limits are set for each sentenced prisoner depending on what regime level they are on.  Remand prisoners have no spending limit.

Contribution towards travel costs

In certain circumstances visitors may be entitled to help with the cost of travelling to a prison visit.  

or alternatively contact the address below for more details;

APVU
Po Box 2152
Birmingham
B15 1SD

Tel 0300 063 2100 (09.00-17.00 hours, closed on Bank Holidays)

e-mail: assisted.prison.visits@noms.gsi.gov.uk

What to expect when visiting a prison

  • When visiting a prison all visitors are required to go through a full rub-down search on arrival and visitors will also be searched by a passive drug dog.
  • Passive drug dogs operate at all prison establishments in Northern Ireland.  They are fully trained to detect drugs.
  • Visitors will be asked to allow the dog under the control of its handler to carry out a search for prohibited substances.  The dog will not come in contact with the visitor but will detect by scent. The dogs are used at the entrance to the visits area.
  • If a dog makes a positive indication the visitor will be offered either a closed visit, the opportunity to re-schedule the visit or not to take the visit.  
  • These searches are essential to help maintain the safety of prisoners, visitors and staff.
  • The senior officer on duty has the authority to end a visit if the visitor or prisoner fails to comply with prison rules during visits.
  • Personal belongings must be left in the specially provided area of each prison.
  • Each visitor is permitted to bring up to £12 in £1 coins in order to buy snacks.
  • Parcels for prisoners will be collected and thoroughly searched before being given to prisoners.

Identification

  • All adult visitors, aged 18 and over, will on their first visit, have to provide photographic evidence of their identity;
  • Visitors will be photographed for record purposes and have their finger scanned to enrol them on the system.
  • The same identification that would be required to vote is acceptable. These include driving licence, passport, electoral card identity card, senior citizen's smart pass or citizen's card.
  • Children aged under 18 may be photographed and have their finger scanned to enrol them on the system and if unaccompanied by an adult will alsobe required to provide photographic identification.
  • You should allow a little extra time on arrival to your first visit to be enrolled on the system.
  • After being enrolled, your identity will be checked before you enter the visits room and again when you are leaving the room. This simply involves your finger-scan being checked by staff and only takes a few seconds.
  • The finger-scan is not a fingerprint and will not be used for any other purpose than to identify the visitors to prison staff.
  • Your photograph and finger-scan will remain on the system for future visits and as a result you will not have to bring photographic identification every time you visit.
  • All records are stored and protected in line with the provisions of the Data protection Act 1998.

Contact Numbers

"If you are worried about a prisoner please speak to somebody in the prison straightaway. Give the operator who answers your call the name and number of the person you are concerned about and they will put you through to a manager who will deal with your concern.

The 24 hour telephone numbers for our prisons are:

Maghaberry - 028 9261 1888

Magilligan – 028 7776 3311

Hydebank Wood – 028 9025 3666

Alternatively you can contact NIACRO’s Family Links on:

028 9032 0157 (during office hours only) and they will ensure the information is passed on to the appropriate person."

Family Support Officers

Family Support Officers are available in each prison to offer support and guidance to family and friends.  They can also arrange support through outside agencies.

Maghaberry Family Support Officer – 02892616067

Magilligan Family Support Officer – 028 77763311 extension 87516

Hydebank Wood Family Support Officer – 02890494331

Visitors who wish to make a complaint

A visitor to one of our prisons may make a complaint about:

  • His or her treatment by any person employed in the Northern Ireland Prison Service;
  • The facilities available to him or her at the prison; and
  • The cleanliness and adequacy of prison premises

How to make a complaint

A booklet in which to make the complaint is also available in the Visitors' Centre or Visits Reception Complex or from Family Support Officers. A short leaflet explaining the procedure is also available at these locations and members of staff from the prison, Quakers or NIACRO are available to provide any help required.