Living conditions

The law establishes a minimum standard for living space per prisoner


Findings from the Inspectorate of Prisons in 2017, determined that the majority of cells did not meet the required CPT minimum of 4m² per person.

Prisoners sleep on

  • a bed
  • a bunk bed

All the prisoners are provided with bedding


Prisoners must be provided with decent and appropriate bedding in terms of warmth, hygiene and safety (PSI 75/2011 concerning accommodation services).

The prison administration must ensure that each cell is adequately ventilated. Cells may be equipped with opening windows, fixed window ventilation, wall ventilation or mechanical extract ventilation.1.

The Prison Inspectorate report of 2017 stated that some windows in certain facilities did not open correctly and that these cells were badly ventilated. Some prisoners have admitted to breaking windows open during summer. These windows are frequently left in a state of disrepair, even throughout winter, and are often not replaced when a new person moves in.

The cells/dormitories are provided with electric lighting


The cells/dormitories are equipped with heating and/or air conditioning

in most cases

All cells must include a heating system (PSI 17/2012 on certified detention facilities). The prison inspectorate’s report of 2017 suggested that a number of prisoners did not have necessary heating or air conditioning in their cells, and that often those who did have these systems claimed that they didn’t work.1

  1. HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Life in prison: Living conditions, October 2017. 

  • Several prisons are experiencing heating and hot water problems. The Bristol prison, for example, had this problem in both 2021 and 2022. In Winchester, relatives said that prisoners padded their doors and windows with blankets and tape in order to stay warm.

    In Littlehey, the family of a prisoner reported that the heating was not working and the cells were cold. Complaints relating to the heating and hot water system of this prison have been recorded during several winters since 2017. These problems are reportedly due to significantly delayed maintenance work, which is itself due to budget cuts.

    / InsideTime

Prisoners can smoke


As of January 2019, prison facilities have become smoke free institutions. However, electronic cigarettes are allowed.1

An illegal market developed however with important consequences: the price of cigarettes rose from 10 to 500 pounds and drugs previously mixed with tobacco have begun to be consumed pure. This resulted in debts and increased consumption2.

Prisoners have access to water

in their cell/dormitory

Showers are located in the cells/dormitories

in some facilities

Showers are located inside cells in institutions built since 2001 (Dovegate, Thameside, Oakwood, Berwyn, etc.).

Prisoners have the right to a shower at least once a week (prison rule 28 (2)). The CNA (Certified National Accommodation) has not implemented distinct rules concerning the frequency of showering, as prison staff must consider the needs of prisoners individually, taking into account their levels of practical activities, individual circumstances and gender.1

The Chief Inspector of prisons reported that conflicting schedules forced prisoners to choose between taking a walk, speaking on the telephone or having a shower.

Showers in the cells of young offenders varied by institution. Some prisoners did not have access to a daily shower, including for those who were physically active or were due in court the following day.

Types of sanitary facilities


A study via the Ministry of Justice indicates that,in March 2010, 1421 prisoners (Albany / Isle of White, Bristol, Codingley, Grendon and Long Lartin prisons) did not have toilets in the cells. A central unlocking system allowed access to communal toilets during general confinement and at night.

Prisoners occasionally had to wait for longer than an hour, or to use a hygiene bucket if there was a fault with the system (power failure, etc).1

  1. HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Life in prison: Living conditions, October 2017, p.19. 

Sanitary facilities are clean, adequate and accessible

in some facilities

The prison inspectorate of 2017 reported that the conditions of toilets in prison cells were unsatisfactory. Toilet bowls were often deteriorating, dirty and difficult to clean – they often rarely had a lid.

The majority of toilets in sharing cells were very visible or poorly screened – this is in direct conflict with privacy standards highlighted in the PSI 17/2012 on certified detention facilities.

The prison service provides personal hygiene products free of charge


Prisoners must have access to essential sanitary and health products. Sanitary products are considered on an individual basis for prisoners, and must account for activities and special requirements of prisoners.1

Prison Reform Trust relay, from 2017. Interviews with prisoners suggest that prison staff limit their allowance of toilet paper and that they often refuse to provide more when prisoners run out.

The prison service provides cleaning products free of charge


In 2017 over half of adult prisoners (54%) claimed to have access to cleaning products free of charge. 80% of prisoners in high security prisons and 31% for young adults also said this was the case.1

  1. Inspectorate of prisons, Life in prison: Living conditions, October 2017, p.16. 

Beddings are refreshed


The prison inspectorate of 2017 stated that prison facilities recommended weekly changing of bedding. This varied between facilities as: “while 64% of all adult prisoners told us they received clean sheets every week, this ranged from 88% of those in women’s prisons to only 58% in local prisons.”

Prisoners are authorised to wear their own clothes in prison. The prison administration provides clothes for prisoners if necessary. Certain facilities require prisoners to wear a uniform.

All prisoners have access to washing machines in prison and can regularly wash their clothes. (PSI 75/2011 on accommodation services).

Drinking water is free and available in all areas of the facilities


Number of meals per day


Daily cost of meals per prisoner

roughly £2

HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Annual report 2017-2018, p. 30.

Each facility specifies the budget they allocate for meals.1

  1. Inspectorate of HM prisons Life in prison: Food July 2016. 

The prison service is required to meet nutritional standards regarding quality and quantity


“The food provided shall be wholesome, nutritious, well prepared and served, reasonably varied and sufficient in quantity.” (Prison rule 24)

The prison inspectorate of 2017 stated that prisoners were often served unappetising meals. Menus tended to be repetitive and prisoners often complained about the quality and quantity of food they received. Prisoners considered breakfast to be insufficient and claimed that it was often distributed during the night. As a result, certain prisoners were shocked by how long they had to wait between meals. 1

  1. Chief Inspector of Prisons, “Annual Report 2017-2018

The prison service provides food that respects special dietary needs


Meals must meet the dietary needs of all prisoners. They must also reflect prisoners with particular religious, cultural, health or mobility needs. (PSI 75/2011).

The prison inspectorate of 2016 acknowledged that the majority of facilities offered a modified menu to meet the requirements mentioned above, especially for religious festivities. Vegetarian and vegan menus were also available. In general, prisoners believed that variety of meals was limited or non-existent.1

  1. Inspectorate of HM Prisons “Life in prison: Food, July 2016. 

Prisoners eat their meals in

  • in their cell/dormitory
  • in a communal dining area

The majority of facilities allow prisoners free movement whilst eating their meals. Those who receive their meals from a “food counter’ have access to a communal dining area. In certain facilities, prisoners must eat meals in their cells. 1

Female prisoners must be allowed to eat their food in a communal environment (PSO 4800 on the regime and conditions of women prisoners).

  1. Inspectorate of HM Prisons, “Life in prison: Food, July 2016, p. 11. 

Prisoners can buy food products


Prisoners can buy food products from canteens by filling out an order form. 1

  1. National Offender Management Service and Prison Reform Trust, “Information book for prisoners with a disability”, p. 20. 

Prisoners can have access to a refrigerator


Some facilities have fridges in communal dining areas. 1

  1. HM Inspectorate of Prisons, “Life in prison: Food, July 2016, p.12. 

Prisoners are allowed to cook in their cells or in a shared space

in some facilities

Prisoners can cook their food in certain facilities. The HM Inspectorate of Prisons demonstrated that some high security facilities (such as Full Sutton) have suitable kitchens.

Others do not, such as Wakefield, which is small and under-equipped (insufficient refrigeration facilities, etc.) 1

  1. HM, “Life in prison: Food July 2016, p. 12. 

Prisoners are allowed to receive food parcels


Part of the prisoner's food is produced by the prison